In 1900 the Austrian pathologist Karl Landsteiner discovered the existence of blood groups, and made transfusion medicine possible. Since then transfusion has spread widely as one of the most basic medical treatment. While methods for blood preservation are advancing, transfusion yet requires blood and relies on the donation currently.
Now, more than 100 years later, Prof. Nakauchi at the University of Tokyo and Prof. Eto at Kyoto University with their team members have succeeded in developing techniques to produce platelets from iPS cells. we are establishing the techniques to produce a stable supply of safe and low-cost platelet products without relying on blood donations.This technological innovation can be considered a second revolution in transfusion medicine, one that the medical professions are eager to witness for more than a century.
Megakaryon Corporation was founded to promote the application of these techniques to clinical use. In cooperation with domestic and foreign academic research institutions and companies, Megakaryon will establish techniques to manufacture safe and low-cost platelet products constantly without relying on blood donation, achieve a second revolution in transfusion medicine and contribute to the evolution of medical infrastructure all over the world.
Arrest of bleeding in the blood vessel (red) of a mouse with platelet (green) produced from human iPS cells
Platelets, a main component of blood products, are activated and adhere to the wounded endothelium of a blood vessel when damage occurs, and play an important role in stopping bleeding. Particularly, large amounts of platelets are required for surgical operation and these are indispensable in medical institutions. However, they cannot be stored in a frozen state at all but only for four days at room temperature.
Just as red blood cells come in various types, such as A, B, AB, and O, white blood cells come with various different human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). Patients in need of repeated blood transfusions can produce antibodies against HLAs different from their own. For this reason, platelets with the same HLAs as the recipient must be transfused. However, probability of HLA matching is one in four even among sibling, one in several hundred to several ten thousand among unrelated people, it’s hard to find proper donors despite much efforts
Platelet products themselves especially entail huge numbers of cells in the field of regenerative medicine, where research is ongoing. For example, “while retinal pigment cells, dopamine regenerative cells or neural stem cells require 10,000, 1,000,000 or 10,000,000 in number of cells per treatment, respectively, 200-300 billion cells are needed for single dose of platelet transfusion. In case repeated transfusion is undergone, the number of platelet products satisfying it each time should be prepared repeatedly. For these reasons, medical professions expect our research and development (R&D) to enable the mass manufacturing of HLA-matched platelet products.
The graph above shows the total number of donors necessary for an adequate supply calculated using both “2012 Transfusion Situation Survey Results” prepared by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health and future population estimates. It is estimated that approximately 85% of those requiring blood transfusions are more than 50 years of age, and the number of these individuals is expected to increase considerably in the future as the population ages. As the population capable of donating blood will decrease year by year, in 2027 it is estimated that there will be a shortage in the total number of blood donors by approximately 850,000 people.
The original data are found in the supporting documentation from the Blood Operations Section 2014 Meeting, December 19th, 2014, items 2-3.