Theun, from the Netherlands, graduated from the University of Twente (NL) with a Masters in Biomedical Engineering in 2010. He started his PhD in Clinical Engineering at the University of Liverpool in the same year, under the supervision of Professor John Hunt and Dr Nick Rhodes in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.
The need to provide safe and functional auxiliary blood is a constant pressure for healthcare providers.
Currently, blood is provided by means of donation to blood banks. Often blood is not required in its whole form and therefore it has added value for use in multiple applications and is separated into different components (i.e. red blood cells, platelets, and plasma) to make more per unit of donated blood.Even this separated products approach is still not providing sufficient to keep up with the needs in medical treatments.
The project I am working aims to discover the conditions required for the rapid and continuous creation of red blood cells from adult stem cell, as an alternative approach to blood transfusion.
My PhD is within a European funded project called REDONTAP, where the Department of Musculoskeletal Biology is working together with three institutes in Europe to fulfill this aim. My own research involves the growth of stem cells, and optimising these cultures, while also stimulating these cells to become red blood cells in an environment that allows for high cell output in a dynamic three dimensional environment.
The translation from static cultures in a tissue culture flaks (2D) to a 3D environment in a bioreactor is the most challenging of my whole project. This so called “up scaling” of the cell culture conditions will be essential in order to be able to create unit(s) with high density artificial red blood cells, similar to existing blood units.
This is of course ongoing research and by trying to understand the mechanisms involved we hope to discover a method to make this reality.
For more information on this project, please visit: http://www.redontap.com