Breakthrough Could Simplify Bone Marrow Transplants

According to a newly published study in the journal Blood, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have made a breakthrough in expanding hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) outside the body, simplifying stem cell transplants in a number of key ways.

HSCs in bone marrow are capable of becoming any type of blood cell. Some blood disorders, including certain types of lymphoma and leukemia, are caused by abnormal blood cells, and one way of treating them is to eliminate them from the body and transplant new stem cells from a donor.

Problems with donation include:

  • - the donation itself, which can be time-consuming and difficult for the donor.
  • - preventing the cells from differentiating into specialized blood cells before they are transplanted into the patient.
  • - the need for a donor's stem cells in the first place, since ideally the patient would be able to bank their marrow and avoid having to find a match.

Said Dr. Pengbo Zhou, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell:

Our work demonstrates that we can overcome a major technical hurdle in the expansion of adult blood stem cells, making it possible, for the first time, to produce them on an industrial scale.

HSCs are in a stem-like state, preventing them from going into the recipient patient's bone marrow.

Investigators have created a protein that they believe can expand a donor's stem cells outside the body, which would limit the amount of HSCs needed from a donor.

The protein also suspends the stem cells, preventing them from differentiation and preserving them in that state until needed.

This preservation could also make banking one's marrow a possibility in the future, which would eliminate the risk of receiving donor stem cells and developing something potentially fatal, such as graft-versus-host disease.

Adds Dr. Zhou:

The immediate goal is for us to see if we can take fewer blood stem cells from a donor and expand them for transplant. That way more people may be more likely to donate. If many people donate, then we can type the cells before we freeze and bank them, so that we will know all the immune characteristics. The hope is that when a patient needs a bone marrow transplant to treat cancer or another disease, we can find the cells that match, expand them and use them.

Source: MNT

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