Improving quality testing of stem cells for patients

What is this research about?

Stem cell transplants are used to treat more than 80 diseases and disorders, including blood cell cancers such as leukemia. Cord blood — the blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby is born — is a rich and important source of stem cells for transplantation. The national Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank collects, processes and freezes cord blood units. These units are available to any patient worldwide who needs a stem cell transplant and finds a match in the bank.

Before a cord blood unit that matches a patient can be released for transplantation, it must be tested for quality. To do these tests, the Cord Blood Bank uses a segment of the unit. Segments are small portions of the main unit that can be thawed separately. The results of tests conducted on thawed segments are used to make decisions about whether the cord blood unit will be suitable for transplantation. The tests count the numbers of certain types of cells. The tests also measure cell viability — the percentage of cells that can grow and divide into healthy cells to replace a patient’s damaged cells. Regulations and standards provide criteria for the number and viability of certain cells in cord blood units that must be met for the unit to be considered suitable for transplantation.

In this study, the researchers set out to improve the pre-transplant quality tests of thawed cord blood. The aim was to develop a standard approach that minimizes cell loss while maintaining cell viability, thus increasing the chance that units meet the standards and are found suitable for transplantation.

Published on