LEIDEN, The Netherlands, February 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 Cornelissen 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.
SOURCE Top Institute Pharma (TI Pharma)