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Biotech Canada Medicine Science

Scientists Turn Skin Into Blood 229

Breakthru writes "In an important breakthrough, scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make human blood from adult human skin. The discovery, published in the prestigious science journal Nature today, could mean that in the foreseeable future people needing blood for surgery, cancer treatment or treatment of other blood conditions like anemia will be able to have blood created from a patch of their own skin to provide transfusions. Clinical trials could begin as soon as 2012."
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Scientists Turn Skin Into Blood

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  • Sunlight? (Score:5, Funny)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:16PM (#34158680) Journal
    In an important breakthrough, scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make human blood from adult human skin.

    So not only will it clot, it can tan?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:18PM (#34158698)

    That whole "walking around with no skin" situation could be a bit of a problem.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:20PM (#34158710)

      That whole "walking around with no skin" situation could be a bit of a problem.

      So you think walking around with no blood is preferable?

    • by Lucky75 ( 1265142 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:56PM (#34158890)
      From what I read in other articles not posted on slashdot, something like a 12x12 cm patch of skin is enough to create enough blood for a transfusion. That's about the same amount removed during normal grafting operations.

      Link []
      • Is that after 'growing' the skin to a larger size, like is done for burn victims or other skin graft recipients?

        Also, if they could make the IV bag out of 'growing' skin, it would never run out of blood!

      • by hahn ( 101816 )
        I know you didn't write this (it was in the article), but "create enough blood for a transfusion" is a meaningless statement. Depending on the medical situation, one could need anywhere between 1 bag of red blood cells (450 ml) to 20 bags of blood. In the Nature article that ColdWetDog linked, it states,

        Converted cells aren't without their drawbacks, though. Unlike iPS and embryonic stem cells, they cannot easily multiply in the lab, so producing the large quantities needed for applications such as scr
    • Robbie Williams didn't seem to have any trouble with it: []

      (WARNING: Vid contains male striptease, horrible music, and oh yeah, considerable gore)

  • The article mentioned that it's a direct conversion from skin to blood... but I think a reasonable patch of skin wouldn't have enough volume of cells for a blood transfusion?
  • by jomegat ( 706411 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:25PM (#34158742)
    Just how much skin does it take to make a pint of blood? I would think a lot, but not having read the article, I wouldn't know.

    Seems to me they invented the reverse of the process that's really needed. It's a lot harder to get enough skin for grafting than it is to get blood for transfusions. Wouldn't blood-to-skin be a better conversion?

    • by RobVB ( 1566105 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:27PM (#34158746)

      Just needs some reverse engineering.

    • Not really. The blood banks are pretty much always a few days from running out because blood doesn't keep very well.
      • by jomegat ( 706411 )
        True, but that still doesn't make skin easier to come by than blood.
        • There's less need for donor skin, however. More people require blood during medical procedures than need skin, and usually more blood than skin is needed, even within a procedure that needs both. Furthermore, there's ways to keep a person alive with portions of skin missing. No blood is a little bit harder to deal with. During that extra time, you can culture their own skin, should they have any, or wait for a donor.

    • by Kurofuneparry ( 1360993 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:07AM (#34158918)

      A good question. The backwards conversion is impossible because the vast majority of blood cells are RBCs (Red Blood Cells or erythrocytes) and these have gotten rid of their nucleus, making them a cellular dead end doomed to destruction in about 120 days.

      Also, blood is mostly free water (plasma) and when RBCs are created their progenitor cells divide many times in the production process. Assuming that this process they're using is similar, you're talking about impressive volume multiplication in the conversion from skin to blood.

      Then again.... I'm an idiot .....

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Psychotria ( 953670 )

        Mammal red blood cells lack a nucleus. This is, in general, not true for other vertebrate animals although there are a few exceptions which I cannot think of right now

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nedlohs ( 1335013 )

      You can grow skin in a lab - something you' aren't going to do with red blood cells. The "premature cellular aging" and "oh shit we used a made them cancer" also probably doesn't matter once you applied the magic to turn them into blood.

    • RBCs are enucleated, so no. Without that DNA material, there is LITTLE chance of that.
  • down side, FACE OFF!!

  • by amanicdroid ( 1822516 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:34PM (#34158778)
    So they'll be able to grind up people and use them for blood transfusions, right?
  • by JackpotMonkey ( 703880 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:49PM (#34158848) Homepage
    Now if we can just get the Crips to turn into bloods we may actually have something useful.
  • Fucking PR (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 )
    When scientist act like ad execs, can you blame the Kansans?
  • Any kid with a skateboard knows how to do that...

    Nasty mental picture, though. Good idea for a zombie movie. "A virus that turns skin... into BLOOOD! What could go wrong?"

  • A little too late for Halloween 2010. Just imagine the party gags!
  • by hahn ( 101816 ) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:58PM (#34158896) Homepage
    While this is an interesting discovery, scientific history is littered with interesting discoveries that led nowhere. The practicality is dubious until we find answers to quite a few questions. Like how much skin it takes to produce a half liter of blood. A half liter is the standard volume of one bag of packed red blood cells (RBC). To be precise - 450 ml. If you need the entire skin to produce that much, then it's not exactly practical. And if you can grow an RBC supply from just a little bit of skin, how much time will it take and how much money in resources to develop AND store an adequate quantity? And will doing so compromise the stability or functionality (O2 carrying capabilities) of the RBC's produced by such a method?
    • by thorndt ( 814642 )
      I figure they'd just cut off a patch of skin and grow it in a petri dish. They do this now for burn victims. Then, when they've grown enough, they convert it to blood?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mr_mischief ( 456295 )

      They're not actually making whole blood, which is mostly water. They're making progenitor cells for blood which go on to produce red cells, white cells, and platelets. Most of the volume would come from somewhere else, but the cells they are making make the cells.

  • I suppose they add some things, but surely the process must roughly obey conservation of mass.. How much skin would I loose for a transfusion bag of blood? The thought gave me the chills. (yes yes, I know, between my life and my skin I would of course choose my life).
    • I suppose they add some things, but surely the process must roughly obey conservation of mass.

      That's the nice thing, sometimes, about biology. You can grow more of it, provided appropriate conditions and nutrients. This process would indeed be totally clinically useless - though still scientifically interesting - if it relied on a one-to-one production of blood cells from skin cells.

      I see (at least) two major reasons why the scientists would choose to use skin fibroblasts as a starting material. First, skin cells are quite easy to harvest, and your body is already built to repair and replace m

  • Really? (Score:4, Funny)

    by cprocjr ( 1237004 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:20AM (#34158972) Journal
    Cut off a patch of skin. Yeah, that'll stop the bleeding!
  • Doctor: "Good news! We've managed to turn all your skin into blood! Now, there is also some slightly bad news..."

  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    Its been done. Ever heard of a skateboard?

  • The scientist obviously got their inspiration from this double feature: []

  • If not, it ought to be!
  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @10:00AM (#34160810) Homepage

    I was able to turn quite a lot of skin into quite a lot of blood, with nothing more complicated than a length of aerial cable and a Peugeot Boxer van. Feed aerial cable down through the roof, slide hand between headlining and door frame to retrieve cable, and voila! Lots of blood and no skin on the back of your hand!

Forty two.