For Stem Cells, a Role on the Battlefield

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When people envision using human embryonic stem cells for “regenerative medicine,” they often talk about making neurons to treat Parkinson’s disease, cardiac cells to repair the damage caused by a heart attack, or pancreatic islet cells to replace those destroyed by diabetes.

But some scientists say an early therapeutic use of such cells might be more prosaic: making red blood cells for transfusions.

Such blood cells, perhaps made in huge vats, might one day supplement blood donations, which are often in short supply. And the blood might be free of the infectious diseases that can be found in donated blood.

The military is especially interested because it can be hard to find and store red cells for use on the battlefield. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as Darpa, is starting a “blood pharming” program aimed at developing a system that can make red blood cells from progenitor cells on the battlefield.

Read the complete NYT article

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