Scientists find new way to make human platelets

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Scientists have discovered a new way to make human platelets, which could help patients worldwide who need blood transfusions.

Platelets are the cells we use to form blood clots. They're traditionally created in our bone marrow. But scientists are now using a machine called a platelet bioreactor — along with human stem cells — to create platelets outside the human body. (Via YouTube / ThrombosisAdviserAmerican Society of Hematology​)

Essentially, this "next-generation" device — as Boston Magazine calls it — features the same characteristics as bone marrow. The crucial difference: It's able to carry out a reaction on an industrial scale.

An author of the study said in a press release published by HealthDay, "The ability to generate an alternative source of functional human platelets with virtually no disease transmission represents a paradigm shift in how we collect platelets that may allow us to meet the growing need for blood transfusions."

Brigham and Women's Hospital reports more than 2 million donor platelet units are transfused each year in the U.S. to help patients in need.

That includes trauma patients and those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplants and surgery. (Getty Images)

But platelet shortages are common due to increased demand, a short shelf life and the possibility of contamination, rejection and infection. (Getty Images)

The problem lab-created platelets have run into in the past is time: Growing new platelets took too long.

A doctor not associated with this research said, "This study addresses that gap, while contributing to our understanding of platelet biology at the same time." (Via HealthDay / Brigham and Women's Hospital)

But the rules are tough on blood products, so the platelets will undergo safety tests over the next three years. Clinical human trials likely won't start until 2017. (Getty Images)

The study was published in the journal Blood.