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Speeding up Generation of RBCs in the Lab

  • 14 Mar 2020
  • 3 min read

Why in News

A team of Indian researchers have invented a process through which generation of Red Blood Cells(RBCs) outside the body (in vitro) from Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs) can be speeded up.

  • The invented process would help to fasten the process of transfusion of RBCs in life-saving treatments for numerous conditions such as severe anaemia, transplant surgery, pregnancy-related complications, and blood-related cancers.


  • The blood banks, particularly in developing countries, often face a severe shortage of whole blood as well as components of blood like red blood cells.
  • Various groups have been able to produce RBCs in the laboratory from HSCs. However, the process takes a long time - around 21 days.
    • The umbilical cord blood contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases.
    • Hematopoietic stem cells can mature into different types of blood cells in the body.
  • The resources required to grow cells in the laboratory over such a long duration can be very expensive for the generation of RBCs on a large scale for clinical purposes.

Key Points

  • The process of generation of RBCs in the laboratory from HSCs can be speeded up by adding a very low concentration of a small protein molecule called `Transforming Growth Factor β1’ (TGF-β1), along with a hormone called `Erythropoietin’ (EPO). The whole process takes 18 days.
    • Usually, the addition of only Erythropoietin (EPO) to HSCs generate RBCs in 21 days.
  • Indian researchers have found that the addition of TGF-β1 with EPO has cut down the processing time by three days.
  • The physical appearance and the quality of the cells formed has revealed that the RBCs formed using this procedure are normal.


  • Blood is a fluid connective tissue that consists of plasma, blood cells and platelets.
  • It helps to circulate oxygen and nutrients to various cells and tissues.
  • The major types of blood cells include:
    • Red Blood Cell
      • The Red Blood Cells (RBCs) are also known as Erythrocytes.
      • RBCs contain the iron-rich protein called haemoglobin that gives blood its red colour.
      • RBCs are the most copious blood cell produced in bone marrows. Their main function is to transport oxygen from and to various tissues and organs.
    • White Blood Cells 
      • The White Blood Cells (WBCs) are also known as Leucocytes and are the colourless blood cells as it is devoid of haemoglobin.
      • It mainly contributes to immunity and defence mechanism.

Source: PIB

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