Generation of Red Blood Cells From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Stem Cells Dev. 2011 Sep;20(9):1639-47. doi: 10.1089/scd.2011.0078. Epub 2011 May 11.


Differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into the erythroid lineage of cells offers a novel opportunity to study erythroid development, regulation of globin switching, drug testing, and modeling of red blood cell (RBC) diseases in vitro. Here we describe an approach for the efficient generation of RBCs from hiPSC/hESCs using an OP9 coculture system to induce hematopoietic differentiation followed by selective expansion of erythroid cells in serum-free media with erythropoiesis-supporting cytokines. We showed that fibroblast-derived transgenic hiPSCs generated using lentivirus-based vectors and transgene-free hiPSCs generated using episomal vectors can be differentiated into RBCs with an efficiency similar to that of H1 hESCs. Erythroid cultures established with this approach consisted of an essentially pure population of CD235a(+)CD45(-) leukocyte-free RBCs with robust expansion potential and long life span (up to 90 days). Similar to hESCs, hiPSC-derived RBCs expressed predominately fetal γ and embryonic ɛ globins, indicating complete reprogramming of β-globin locus following transition of fibroblasts to the pluripotent state. Although β-globin expression was detected in hiPSC/hESC-derived erythroid cells, its expression was substantially lower than the embryonic and fetal globins. Overall, these results demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale production of erythroid cells from fibroblast-derived hiPSCs, as has been described for hESCs. Since RBCs generated from transgene-free hiPSCs lack genomic integration and background expression of reprogramming genes, they would be a preferable cell source for modeling of diseases and for gene function studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Shape
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / physiology
  • Erythrocytes / cytology*
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Erythroid Cells / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Hemoglobins