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HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

SMART researchers develop new method to produce red blood cells

New technology decreases cell culture time by half, and uses more targeted cell sorting and purification methods.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) has discovered a new way to develop human red blood cells (RBCs) that decreases the culture time by half, when compared to existing methods. It uses novel sorting and purification methods that are faster, more precise and less costly, according to a press release.

In particular, the researchers have designed an optimised intermediary cryogenic storage protocol that reduces the cell culture time to 11 days post-thaw, eliminating the need for continuous 23-day blood manufacturing.

As blood transfusions save millions of lives every year, but over half the world’s countries do not have sufficient blood supply to meet their needs, this new development will benefit those in need of transfusion for conditions like leukemia. It works by circumventing the need for large volume blood draws and difficult cell isolation processes, SMART said.

On testing the purified RBCs, they were found to retain their cellular functionality, as demonstrated by high malaria parasite infectivity which requires highly pure and healthy cells for infection. This confirms SMART’s new RBC sorting and purifying technologies are ideal for investigating malaria pathology.

The study was carried out by researchers from two of SMART’s Interdisciplinary Research Groups (IRGs) – Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalised-Medicine (CAMP) – co-led by Principal Investigators Jongyoon Han, a Professor at MIT, and Peter Preiser, a Professor at NTU. The team also included AMR and CAMP IRG faculty appointed at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the press release added.

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