Mol Ther 2014 Feb 3;22(2):451-463. Epub 2013 Sep 3.
Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Stem Cell Program, Institute for Cell Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Electronic address:
There is a constant shortage of red blood cells (RBCs) from sufficiently matched donors for patients who need chronic transfusion. Ex vivo expansion and maturation of human erythroid precursors (erythroblasts) from the patients or optimally matched donors could represent a potential solution. Proliferating erythroblasts can be expanded from umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells (CB MNCs) ex vivo for 10(6)-10(7)-fold (in ~50 days) before proliferation arrest and reaching sufficient number for broad application. Here, we report that ectopic expression of three genetic factors (Sox2, c-Myc, and an shRNA against TP53 gene) associated with iPSC derivation enables CB-derived erythroblasts to undergo extended expansion (~10(68)-fold in ~12 months) in a serum-free culture condition without change of cell identity or function. These expanding erythroblasts maintain immature erythroblast phenotypes and morphology, a normal diploid karyotype and dependence on a specific combination of growth factors for proliferation throughout expansion period. When being switched to a terminal differentiation condition, these immortalized erythroblasts gradually exit cell cycle, decrease cell size, accumulate hemoglobin, condense nuclei and eventually give rise to enucleated hemoglobin-containing erythrocytes that can bind and release oxygen. Our result may ultimately lead to an alternative approach to generate unlimited numbers of RBCs for personalized transfusion medicine.