Research Should Make Stem Cell Transplants Using Umbilical Cord Blood More Successful for Leukemia Patients

By Top Institute Pharma ti Pharma, PRNE
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LEIDEN, The Netherlands, February 17, 2011 - Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma) is today launching a new research
project that should make stem cell transplants more successful. A stem cell
transplant is usually performed on adults with acute leukemia. "Umbilical
cord blood is being used more frequently as a source, but this cord blood
contains very few blood-forming stem cells," according to lead researcher Jan
of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. As a result, a
relatively large number of patients will experience complications after the
transplant, which can even be associated with unnecessary deaths. The
researchers are going to develop a new culture method, to increase the number
of stem cells in the laboratory.

During a stem cell transplant, a leukemia patient receives blood-forming
stem cells from another person. These stem cells should go on to form new red
and white blood cells and blood platelets. Jan Cornelissen: "As suitable
adult stem cell donors are not always available, umbilical cord blood is
being used more and more often as a source of blood-forming stem cells.
However, these transplants are often too small and do not contain enough stem
cells. As a result, the formation of new blood cells is an extremely slow
process. Complications, such as infections, often occur during this process.
This could also result in the treatment failing to take hold altogether."

This study - a collaboration between the Erasmus Medical Center
Rotterdam, the University of Utrecht and the companies Glycostem Therapeutics
and GE Healthcare - the focus will be on a new culture method that can
multiply the number of stem cells available for transplantation. This takes
place in the laboratory. During the four-year study period, the cultured stem
cells will be tested in unique model systems and fifteen patients will
receive a transplant containing these stem cells cultured in the lab.

A second arm of the study is aimed at imaging the stem cells in the
patient's body, in order to visualize the efficacy of the treatment.
Cornelissen: "Currently, we only know one to two months after the transplant
whether or not the treatment with stem cells is working. It would be
wonderful if we could quickly see whether the stem cells have actually
settled in the bone marrow. Therefore, we will 'label' the stem cells with
metal spheres, so that they can be seen on an MRI scan. The technique already
exists, but we are going to be the first to apply it in this special way."

The project is being financed by the 'Joint Call' of the three top
institutes in the field of life sciences research, namely TI Pharma, the
BioMedical Materials Program (BMM) and the Center for Translational Molecular
Medicine (CTMM). Over 3 million Euros are available for the study.

BMM, CTMM and TI Pharma will bring together some 180 national and
international partners from the public and private sectors, as well as five
health funds. The three institutes together have a research budget of nearly
700 million Euros for a period of five years. Fifty percent of the total
financing comes from industry and knowledge facilities and fifty percent
comes from the Dutch government.

For more information: Ingeborg van der Heijden tel. +31-71-332-2036 /
+31-6-4612-2482, email ingeborg.vanderheijden at

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