Scientists develop GM rice to replace human blood

Chinese scientists have come up with a way to make up the undersupply of bloody donations; by genetically modifying grains of rice to produce a key component of human blood.

The protein is extracted from rice plants containing human genes.

China’s Wuhan University has been working on the technology, which could be used to treat burn victims and other patients suffering blood loss.

The National Research Council Canada has also been working with the Chinese university on the development, along with the Centre for Functional Genomics at the University of Albany in New York.

The number of blood units needed to treat hospital patients is continually low, due to small numbers of donors and rigid screening levels for conditions including HIV and Hepatitis.

The rice would remove the need to screen for such conditions.

The rice would not produce red blood cells or platelets, but could replace plasma, which is mainly protein part of the blood which can be given to patients who suffered extreme blood loss.

Dr Daichang Yang, head of the research group at Wuhan University in central China, said the genetically modified protein could be mass produced for use in hospitals.

”Human serum albumin is an important protein,” he said.

“The demand for it is more than 500 tonnes per year worldwide.

“A rice seed bioreactor could provide an economical and safe approach for the production of non-animal derived compounds.”

It will be a while, if ever, when the rice is used a replacement for human blood, as so far tests have only been performed on rats.

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