The NHS has announced that within two years it could be starting clinical trials of laboratory manufactured blood cells in humans.
As part of the NHS 2020 Research & Development plan, NHS Blood and Transfusion want to test synthetic red blood cells - and compare them to normal human blood donations. Apparently the aim is to develop a more reliable source of blood for patients with complex blood types, who can struggle to find the right sort of blood that they need.
R&D Director Dr Nick Watkins said "Scientists across the globe have been investigating for a number of years how to manufacture red blood cells to offer an alternative to donated blood to treat patients. We are confident that by 2017 our team will be ready to carry out the first early phase clinical trials in human volunteers."
According to the Indy, trial patients will initially be given just a few teaspoons of synthetic blood - so that adverse reactions can be tested, and so that doctors can see whether the synthetic cells are accepted by the body.
To create the red blood cells in the lab, doctors from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol will apparently be using stem cells taken from adults and also umbilical cords. One of the major advantages of developing red blood cells in this way is that the bloody will be infection free - and won't be carrying HIV or hepatitis, because it won't have previously been in a body to get infected.
Presumably the long term hope of the plan is to get away from the time consuming need to extract blood from humans - but until they figure that out, you should really make sure that you donate blood if you can.