Plasticell is developing manufacture of high-value blood products from pluripotent stem cells, to provide a safe, artificial alternative to donor-derived material.
Inefficient blood clotting owing to lack of platelets (thrombocytopoenia) is associated with chemotherapy, radiation exposure, organ transplant and certain autoimmune diseases. Platelets for transfusion are collected from blood donors, however each donor unit must undergo rigorous safety testing and has a short (<2 days) shelf life which can affect the supply chain. In addition, prolonged treatment with allogeneic platelets leads to life-threatening immune rejection (alloimmune platelet refractoriness) in a proportion of patients.
Plasticell manufactures platelets in vitro through the directed differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This approach has the potential to offer an ongoing, pathogen-free supply of universal platelets for general use, as well as to provide in vitro-derived autologous platelets for individuals suffering from alloimmune platelet refractoriness.
A parallel programme to produce red blood cells from iPSCs is also underway. Since platelets and red blood cells do not have a cell nucleus, they are amongst the safest therapeutic products to be derived from pluripotent stem cells.
The global market for platelets is estimated to be US$2bn per year while that for red blood cells is US$10bn per year.