College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

Science show highlights how stem cells can produce blood

Members of the public can see their own blood cells move on screen with an interactive exhibit which explains how stem cells can be turned into blood.

The exhibit highlights a £2.9 million research project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, which is looking at turning stem cells into red blood cells that can be used for transfusions.

The collaborative research involves the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, NHS Blood and Transplant, University of Glasgow, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and Roslin Cells.

The exhibit is one of 27 displays chosen for the Royal Society’s annual summer exhibition, at which some 30,000 visitors are expected. It is also planned to run the exhibit at Edinburgh’s and Glasgow’s Science Festival next year.

The Royal Society summer exhibition is being held at London’s Southbank as part of See Further: The Festival of Science and Arts.

People will be able to place a microscope under the tongue, which will capture moving images of both their red and white blood cells on a 42-inch screen.

Youngsters will also have the opportunity to cure “Stem Cell Stella” by ensuring that they move a marble stem cell along the correct path so that it turns into the right kind of cell needed to treat her.

There will also be models highlighting the differences between the cell types in our blood, which also show how red blood cells are flat in the middle to maximise the amount of oxygen they can absorb while passing through the lungs.

As well as looking at embryonic stem cells to produce infection-free blood, scientists are working on producing a generic type of blood that could be used for all blood groups.

Some two million units of blood are transfused each year in Britain and we are reliant on donors to meet the demand. With stem cells we have the potential to create unlimited supply of infection free blood, which would address the issue of a shortage of donors both in the developed and developing world

Marc TurnerProfessor of Cellular Therapy at the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine

The Royal Society Exhibition takes place at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall from Friday June 25th to Sunday, July 4th.