Five Things to Know About Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Harvest

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Jonathan Hoggatt, PhD, an investigator with the Mass General Cancer Center and the Center for Transplantation Sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital, was part of a research team that recently published a study in Cell describing an innovative new method for harvesting bone marrow stem cells for transplant. The process could be game changing for both the donor and the transplant recipient.

Here are five things to know:

1) Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are located in the bone marrow and have the ability to differentiate into red blood cell or immune white blood cells. HSC transplants from healthy donors are frequently used to treat malignant or non-malignant blood and immune disorders.

2) The method currently used to harvest HSCs requires the donor to receive daily injections of a drug named G-CSF (Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor) over a period of five days. This drug stimulates the transfer of the HSCs from the bone marrow into the blood, where they can be harvested. Although this method is effective, there are a variety of setbacks for donors. In addition to being time-intensive, repeated G-CSF injections are associated with side effects including bone pain, nausea, headache, fatigue and, in some cases, severe toxicity issues.

3) Dr. Hoggatt’s research team, in collaboration with David Scadden, MD, at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Mass General, and Louis M. Pelus, PhD, at Indiana University, has developed a new method that could both simplify the donation process and improve HSC transplants. Their technique consists of a single intravenous injection of a combination of two drugs. Individually, these two drugs were previously known to have a modest effect on mobilizing HSCs from the bone marrow.  When they are combined, however, the team found that effect increases considerably.

4) The combination treatment could make it possible to harvest HSCs from the donor just 15 minutes after injection. In addition to mobilizing HSCs faster, the study shows that this new technique recruits a different population of HSCs that are better suited to transplant to the recipient’s bone marrow.

5) For stem cell donors, this new method could reduce a life-disrupting five-day procedure with negative side effects to a one-day procedure that includes a single injection and a single harvesting session. Recipients would also benefit by receiving stem cells that are better equipped to engraft in the bone marrow and repopulate the body. This could reduce potential complications, lower the risk of infections and decrease the time spent in the hospital.

To learn more about Dr. Hoggatt and his work, check out this video below or visit the Hoggatt Lab website.

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