Researchers have successfully injected cultured red blood cells (cRBCs) created from human hematopoietic stem cells into a human donor, according to study published in the journal Blood.

The United States Red Cross reports that 4.5 million Americans will a need blood transfusion each year. More than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.

The need for blood continues is rising as the number of donors decreases. Study results may provide hope that patients in need of a blood transfusion could one day become their own donors.

Researchers using generated cRBCs from donor HSCs (Human stem cells that form all blood cell types). They injected the cells in to four mouse models and confirmed that the cells were able to go through the full maturation process.

"Although previous research has shown that HSCs can be developed into fully matured red blood cells, this is the first study that has proven that they are capable of survival in the human body, a major breakthrough for the transplant community," said Luc Douay, MD, PhD, senior study author and Professor of Hematology at Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France.

Using a volunteer donor, researchers then repeated the process of creating another set of cRBCs and injected the cells back into the donor's own body to assess their survival in a humans.

Five days after the injection 94 to 100 percent of the cRBCs survived, after 26 days between 41 to 63 percent survived, comparable to the average 28-day half-life or normal native red blood cells.

The research results demonstrate that the lifespan and survival rate of cultured cells are similar to conventional red blood cells. The results further support proof that cRBCs were capable of reaching full maturation in the body, and are a valid source for blood transfusions.

"There is a dire need for an alternative source of transfusable blood products, especially with the risk of infection from emergent new viruses that comes with traditional transfusion. Producing red blood cells in culture is promising since other efforts to create alternative sources have not yet been as successful as once hoped."