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Hopkins to Study Creating Blood Platelets from Stem Cells

Boxes of Red Cross bllod platelets (Jason Scragz/Flickr)Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland have begun a study of inherited blood clotting abnormalities focusing on the potential creation of human platelet cells from stem cells. The study is funded by a $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The grant is part of an overall NIH initiative on genetic variations as a cause of heart, lung, and blood diseases. In this study, Hopkins researchers aim to increase understanding of how genes regulate the function of platelets, which are the sticky cells in blood that are important to stop excessive bleeding. The researchers will also investigate how genetic variations can affect a person’s responsiveness to aspirin and other medications that are designed to prevent clotting, in order to find new ways to prevent and treat abnormal clotting.

Another aspect of the project is to develop the technical capacity to produce large numbers of blood platelets from stem cells in a single individual’s blood sample. Patients who need platelet transfusions, such as those whose platelets were wiped out following chemotherapy, would be able to be transfused with their own platelets without the risk of rejection that comes with receiving platelets donated from others.

At first, small blood samples will be taken from 400 adult study volunteers. The blood samples will come from a large group of people who previously participated in the Johns Hopkins GeneSTAR study, a genetic research initiative with a database of 4,000 people who have family members with early heart disease.

White blood cells from those donated samples will be transformed into induced pluripotent stems cells, or iPS cells, which can be reprogrammed into any type of human tissue. In this case, they will be converted into megakaryocytes that reside in bone marrow and produce platelets, but are few in number.

Read more: Adult Stem Cells Help Cardiac Function in Angina Patients

Photo: Jason Scragz/Flickr

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