Private Business Intermediaries

A Quick Guide to Synthetic Blood and the Implications for Healthcare

28/07/2015 | By Freedom Health Insurance
The NHS has announced that it plans to create laboratory-produced blood which will be ready for human trials within two years (1). The synthetic blood will be created using the stem cells from adult donors’ blood, or from the umbilical cord of newborn babies (1) with the mothers’ consent.

There are two projects investigating synthetic blood concurrently: one involving scientists from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol, and another one involving the Scottish National Blood Transfusions Service and the Wellcome Trust (2).

But what exactly does this mean for healthcare? Here, we’ve rounded up a few of the potential implications that synthetic blood could have on our health industry.

We may need to rely less on blood donors

According to NHS Blood and Transplant (3), “40% fewer new volunteers came forward across England and North Wales to give blood last year compared to a decade ago.”

One of the hopes of the trial is that an unlimited quantity of synthetic blood can be created (2), making emergency blood transfusions easier to deal with. While we will still require the initial stem cell donation from blood donors, if the project is able to create large quantities of synthetic blood, then this could ease pressure on blood banks.

The Scottish project is working on creating Type O negative blood (4) which can be used on the majority of patients, so this type of synthetic blood could be even more helpful.

The risk of infection will be lower

Because the new red cells manufactured from stem cells have never been inside a human body, the risk of an infection such as Hepatitis or HIV entering into the artificial blood bank is very low (2).

Though donated blood is thoroughly screened now, there have been problems in the past with patients being infected with diseases like Hepatitis B and HIV (5). The elimination of a risk of infection would provide an extra level of protection for patients.

It could help people with blood conditions

The intention of the trial is “not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups”, as stated by Dr Nick Watkins from NHS Blood and Transplant (6). Patients with rare blood types and conditions that need blood transfusions frequently, such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia, could really benefit from this trial (6).


While it is still early days for synthetic blood, and we won't know how successful the product will really be until after the trials, this project could potentially become an important breakthrough in the world of healthcare and medicine.

The synthetic blood product could have a huge impact on healthcare everywhere in the world, especially in developing countries where blood transfusions are a riskier practice, and it is perhaps those countries that will feel the most benefit from this development.
1. NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT, 2015. In-man trials of manufactured blood within two years. [Online] Available here.  
2. THE INDEPENDENT, 2015. NHS to give volunteers 'synthetic blood' made in laboratory within two years [Online] Available here
3. NHS BLOOD AND TRANSPLANT, 2015. New blood donors in decline: 40% fewer new blood donors in 2014/5 than 2004/5. [Online] Available here.
4. THE SCIENTIST, 2014. Artificial Blood Is Patient-Ready. [Online] Available here.
5. MEDICAL DAILY, 2014. Scientists Create Artificial Blood That Can Be Produced On An Industrial Scale: A Limitless Supply Of Blood?  [Online] Available here.
6. BIO NEWS, 2015. NHS plans artificial blood trials by 2017. [Online] Available here.