If you’re a fan of HBO’s True Blood, and even if you aren’t, you may know the premise behind the series: scientists create and allow mass production of synthetic blood, vampires (who subsequently no longer need to feed on humans) come out of hiding, and rural Louisiana adjusts. It’s campy, hamfisted, and utterly charming. But until recently, the idea of mass-produced synthetic blood (not to be confused with artificial blood substitutes) was as fictional as the idea of vampires.
This is about to change, thanks to a new project funded by the Wellcome Trust to mass-produce synthetic blood in factories by culturing it from reverse-engineered stem cells.
The blood would be the universal, prized, and very rare type-O negative. There are still a few snags that need to be worked out—right now, synthesizing the blood would cost about AU$213 per unit—but costs are likely to go down considerably as the kinks are worked out. And while it’s unlikely that anyone would want or need to drink the stuff, the potential to save lives with this technology, especially in the developing world, is enormous. Researchers expect to wrap up clinical trials by early 2017.