Since the dawn of medicine, scientists have carefully observed, modeled and interpreted the human body to improve healthcare. At the beginning there were drawings and paintings, now there is three-dimensional modeling. Moving from two-dimensional cultures and towards complex and relevant biomaterials, tissue-engineering approaches have been developed in order to create three-dimensional functional mimics of native organs. The bone marrow represents a challenging organ to reproduce because of its structure and composition that confer it unique biochemical and mechanical features to control hematopoiesis. Reproducing the human bone marrow niche is instrumental to answer the growing demand for human erythrocytes and platelets for fundamental studies and clinical applications in transfusion medicine. In this review, we discuss the latest culture techniques and technological approaches to obtain functional platelets and erythrocytes ex vivo. This is a rapidly evolving field that will define the future of targeted therapies for thrombocytopenia and anemia, but also a long-term promise for new approaches to the understanding and cure of hematologic diseases.
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