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The reality of making red blood cells

Many thousands of people across the world die every year because of a lack of blood; in the UK alone, 2.5 million bags of blood are required each year after accidents, childbirth or operations.

Before donated blood can be used, it has to be screened and typed in an intensive process that demands rapid, error-free handling throughout. But what if red blood cells, the vital oxygen-carrying component of blood, could be manufactured to order, creating a potentially limitless supply of tailored, infection-free cells? This is the key ambition of a team determined to make blood shortages a thing of the past.

To do so, they face numerous challenges - not least how to make such cells in staggering quantities. In this short film, two of the team's members, Marc Turner and Joanne Mountford, talk us through these challenges while taking us on a journey from stem cells to red blood cells.

Supporting Video: 
True Blood: The reality of making red blood cells | A film by the Wellcome Trust