Annually there are 4.5 million platelet transfusions in Europe and the United States. These are obtained solely from donors and have a shelf life of only a few days. It is estimated that demand will outstrip supply by 20% in some nations. To address this, the Ghevaert group at the University of Cambridge has devised a novel process for producing platelets by a transcription factor based forward programming approach of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into platelet producing precursor cells, the megakaryocytes (MKs). This strategy has the unique advantage of generating high yields of pure MKs in chemically defined medium through the establishment of 2–3 month long-term cultures. This could lead to the production of a consistent, reliable supply of platelets which overcomes the logistical, financial and biosafety challenges for health organisations worldwide. However, to enable commercialisation of platelet manufacture, process optimisation and scale-up is essential.
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