June 11, 2018

Specialized cells collected from the placenta after a normal birth may one day help patients suffering from acute graft-versus-host disease.

Up to 70 percent of people who receive a stem cell transplant as part of treatment for conditions like leukemia develop GvHD, a painful and life-threatening condition that is the result of the donor’s immune cells attacking the patient’s normal cells.

Steroids typically are used to prevent or reduce the effects of GvHD, but some patients do not respond to the therapy. Researchers also have been looking at mesenchymal stromal cells, which are derived from the bone marrow, for a possible treatment.

The results with MSCs alone were not promising, so a team at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked to see if decidua stromal cells, which are collected from the placenta, might produce better results.

May 28, 2018

An Australian man who has saved more than 2 million babies through 1,100 blood donations has made his last gift.

James Harrison gave his last plasma donation in May. He has reached the age of 80, the upper limit for donors in Australia.

Referred to as “the man with the golden arm,” Harrison started giving at the age of 18 and has made 1,172 donations through the years. In the 1960s, it was found that his blood contained a large amount of an antibody that can be used to treat Rh incompatibility, an often-fatal condition in babies when they have RH negative blood and their mothers are Rh positive.

The Australian Red Cross has estimated that treatments developed from his plasma have saved 2.4 million lives. Just 200 people in the entire country create the antibody.

May 21, 2018

Every month, a dozen or so donors give what are known as peripheral blood stem cells in the GenCure Cellular Therapy Donor Room.

Most of those donations go to patients who are battling blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. Stem cells from a genetically matched donor can help a patient’s body rebuild the blood-forming cells in their bodies that are knocked out by chemotherapy.

The science of those stem cell transplants came out of the work of two Canadian researchers, Ernest McCulloch and James Till. The duo is credited with launching modern stem cell research with a paper published in 1961.

May 14, 2018

Like most people, Valerie never expected to be called after she signed up for the bone marrow registry at a GenCure event at the University of Texas at Austin.

And she sure didn’t expect to be called back from Ohio to donate peripheral blood stem cells recently.

But when Valerie, who is attending law school in Cleveland, was called as a potential match for a patient with leukemia, she didn’t hesitate.

“It doesn’t take that much time, it’s not painful and you have a chance to save someone’s life,” she said. “So why not?”

Three-quarters of all the donors called to give in the GenCure Marrow Donor Program wind up giving peripheral blood stem cells, like Valerie.

Learn more about the donation process at the GenCure website.

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April 30, 2018

Research done with stem cells aboard the International Space Station has benefited scientists looking for new ways to treat heart disease.

A team from Loma Linda University looked at cardiac progenitor cells – cells that have the potential to develop into heart cells – in the laboratory and aboard the space station.

They discovered that the cells in the microgravity of space “induced the expression of genes that are typically associated with an earlier state of cardiovascular development.”

The team also found changes in calcium signaling pathways that could be used to improve stem cell treatments for heart patients.

Early phase clinical trials already are underway to treat heart patients with heart stem cells, and the findings will aid in that research.