New stem cell method to benefit donors

A new way of harvesting stem cells reduces side effects for bone marrow donors, pre-clinical CSIRO researchers have found.

Australian scientists have developed a less invasive method to extract bone marrow stem cells for transplants.

Stem cells for bone marrow transplants are routinely harvested from healthy donors and used to treat patients with cancers including leukaemia, said the CSIRO researchers.

The pre-clinical research, involving mice, was carried out by researchers working within the manufacturing arm of CSIRO with the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash.

Current harvesting procedures take a long time and require injections of a growth factor to boost stem cell numbers, which often leads to side effects.

But the discovery, published in Nature Communications, reduces the time required to obtain adequate numbers of stem cells, without the need for a growth factor.

The method combines a newly-discovered molecule (known as BOP), with an existing type of molecule (AMD3100) to mobilise the stem cells found in bone marrow out into the blood stream.

Combining the two molecules had a direct impact on stem cells, allowing them to be seen in the blood stream within an hour of a single dose, said CSIRO researcher Dr Susie Nilsson.

"Current treatment requires the patient to have growth factor injections for several days leading up to the procedure," Dr Nilsson said.

The growth factor can cause unpleasant side effects like bone pain and spleen enlargement for some patients.

"Other patients simply don't respond well, and their stem cell count never gets high enough for a successful transplant," she said.

The next step is a phase 1 clinical trial combining the BOP molecule with the growth factor, before combining it with AMD3100.

Source AAP

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