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Catherine Lewis

“Only we can help”: breaking down barriers for a child with a rare condition


Thursday, March 19, 2020 Catherine Lewis

It started when a physician contacted one of our medical directors, Dr. Kathryn Webert, asking how to get a very specific medication. She had a patient, a small child, with a very rare condition — plasminogen deficiency — that was causing the child’s eyes to fill with woody growths. Dr. Webert immediately started an internal discussion about how Canadian Blood Services could help.

“Plasminogen is a precursor to plasmin, which breaks down clots. Plasmin in tears usually keeps the eyes free of clot-like woody growths,” says Dr. William Sheffield, a plasma expert and associate director of research at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation. “It’s such a rare disorder — literally one in a million — there’s not a ton of literature. We’re only aware of this one patient in Canada.”

These woody growths can be surgically removed, but to stop them from growing back, the child needed special eye drops made from human plasma containing plasminogen.

“What do we do when there’s a child in Canada with a rare disorder, and only we can help? We had to work together and find a way,” says Craig Jenkins, senior manager of product and process development at Canadian Blood Services.

It was up to him and his team to figure out how to do it.

“The first question was, can we get this product from elsewhere in the world? When those avenues were exhausted, we knew we had to figure something out within our own regulatory environment, working through Health Canada,” Jenkins says.

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Craig Jenkins holding unit of plasma
Craig Jenkins removes a unit of plasma from a freezer. 

To start, Jenkins received two plasma units destined for research to see what he could do with them.

“We didn’t have an eye drop vial to put this stuff in, or any automated method for filling a vial, or a process for shipping it. These were all things we had to figure out before we could proceed,” he says.

Dr. Sheffield’s lab was responsible for quantifying the amount of plasminogen in the plasma, to make sure it was in the normal range to help the child.

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a vial of plasma eye drops
Tamiko Stewart, project lead at Canadian Blood Services' Centre for Innovation, holds a filled bottle of plasma eye drops. 

Through Health Canada’s Special Access Program, Canadian Blood Services got approval to produce and ship 680 vials of these plasma eye drops. Jenkins and his colleagues found special ophthalmic vials. To prepare the eye drops, they manually transfer the plasma into these vials. They pack the vials in dry ice and ship them to the local blood bank. The bank gives the vials to the family, who administer them to the child. By all accounts, the eye drops are working, and the child is doing well.

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Gloved hands portion plasma into a sterile ophthalmic vial
One by one, Canadian Blood Services staff portion the plasma into sterile ophthalmic vials. 

“This project embodies what we hope we’re doing every day. It’s obvious this patient needed one medicine only we could provide,” says Dr. Sheffield.

Jenkins relates that both as parents and as Canadian Blood Services employees, it’s something he and Dr. Sheffield felt a personal responsibility to do.

“There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done, knowing full well it was something only we could do. At the end of the day, Canadian Blood Services got this done. A child has been treated because we were adamant we were going to provide a solution,” he says.

This couldn’t have happened without the infinite connections we are proud to be part of — in this case, from patient to primary care physician; from that physician to one of our medical directors; from her to our researchers and product and process developers; from them to the blood bank; and from the blood bank back to the patient. The constant in all these connections is between two lives: that of the donor, and that of the patient.

 


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

In this study, Dr. William Sheffield and Craig Jenkins from the Centre for Innovation tested levels and activities of important plasma factors for coagulation in recovered plasma. They found that the way in which plasma is manufactured from whole blood impacts the composition of recovered plasma.


Thursday, August 29, 2019
Catherine Lewis

A treatment now used to fight two diseases might have the potential to help patients with other conditions, too, according to new research funded by Canadian Blood Services.


Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Jenny Ryan

For this instalment of "meet the researcher" we caught up with Dr. William Sheffield a senior scientist with Canadian Blood Services' Centre for Innovation. Image How long have you been with Canadian Blood Services? I’ve been with Canadian Blood Services since before it existed! I joined our...

Why you won’t get COVID-19 from a blood transfusion


Tuesday, March 10, 2020 Catherine Lewis

COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory virus, with potential to infect the digestive system as well. People can get infected when they inhale or ingest the virus, but not via a blood transfusion.

“There is absolutely no evidence of transfusion transmission for COVID-19, or any other coronavirus,” says Dr. Steven Drews, associate director of microbiology at Canadian Blood Services. “This family of respiratory viruses just doesn’t appear to be transfusion-transmitted.”

This also applies to other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and the unrelated influenza viruses.

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Testing Hands

How viruses work

Viruses need to find host cells, which they invade and use to replicate themselves. Once they’ve invaded, they use the cell’s infrastructure to copy their genetic instructions and create new virus particles, called virions, which then break out of the host cell to repeat the cycle.

Viruses rely on “binding sites” on their host cells, proteins which allow them to attach and invade. The binding sites for the COVID-19 virus are located in the respiratory tract, especially the lower lung, and the digestive system.There is no evidence this new coronavirus targets blood cells, or even uses plasma to move around and invade other organs.

Why COVID-19 can’t be transmitted by blood

Blood cells don’t have the binding sites the COVID-19 virus is looking for. The virus is focused on attacking the respiratory and digestive systems.

Tests for COVID-19 aren’t blood tests, they’re tests for viral genetic material done on respiratory specimens such as a throat swab or sputum sample. These tests may be supported by medical imaging, as well as by looking at symptoms.

Based on what we know now, the odds of receiving blood from an infected donor are miniscule

Since late January, Canadian Blood Services has been collecting data daily and using it to inform advanced modelling to make the best decisions in response to COVID-19.

Every seven to 10 days, or as our knowledge changes, we run models to look at the likelihood of collecting blood from a donor infected with the virus.

“Based on our models, there’s an extremely low chance we’d collect blood from an infected person,” says Dr. Drews.

By extremely low, he means extremely low.

“Based on very conservative estimates we’ve done, we’re looking at odds of one in 100 million chance of collecting a blood donation containing the virus,” he says.

This is partly because the donor would have to be asymptomatic, so carrying the virus without suffering from it. Our travel-related eligibility criteria limits donation during the time when someone may have the virus but not know it.

In conclusion, there’s zero evidence the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted by blood, and even so, at this point the odds of us collecting blood from an infected individual are at worst one in 100 million. So, there’s one less thing to worry about while you scrupulously wash your hands.


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

"The ever-present need for innovative ways to combat dengue and other emerging viruses and pathogens has never been clearer."


Thursday, February 28, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

This month’s Research Unit describes efforts by researchers to create a simulation and modelling study to understand how the risk of transfusion-transmission of HTLV would change if the screening were modified.


Thursday, February 14, 2019
Ross FitzGerald

As part of a larger ongoing effort to develop non-invasive technologies to monitor blood products during storage, researchers have developed a new technique to assess the quality of blood without breaching the sterility of blood bags.

Top 5 blog posts of 2019


Tuesday, January 07, 2020 Catherine Lewis

Welcome to 2020! Take a look back with us by checking out the five most visited R.E.D. blog posts in 2019. 

 

Group of blood donors

1. The ABCs of ABO blood types

In the early days of transfusion medicine, doctors gave patients all sorts of different fluids, including blood or milk from animals. Success varied, and the results were often disastrous—even when they used human blood. It wasn’t until the start of the 20th century that physicians learned the ABCs of the ABO blood types and finally understood how to give a successful transfusion. Read more >>

 

 

 

 

iron

2. Ferritin findings: investigating iron and impacts on donors

The health and well-being of our donors is a top priority at Canadian Blood Services. Health screening, education and donor testing help to ensure donors are healthy enough to give and that their gift doesn’t cause harm to themselves or to patients. If a problem is detected, we let donors know and advise to them to take action. Read more >>

 

3. Dr. Chantale Pambrun explains the importance of iron wellness

Iron is an essential element for producing hemoglobin (the molecule that helps transport oxygen around your body). Back in 2017, we made changes to donor eligibility based on new information our researchers learned about mitigating iron deficiency in blood donors.

In this post, Centre for Innovation director Dr. Chantale Pambrun, who was at the time medical consultant, donor and clinical services with Canadian Blood Services, explains why we made changes, and provides some more information about why donor iron wellness is important. Read more >>

 

Nathaly, a mother who donated cord blood, holds her baby and toddler.

4. Cord blood matters - take time to learn more

Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of more than 80 different diseases and disorders. By donating their baby’s cord blood, parents have the power to help patients living with diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease. Researchers continue to explore the possibilities of using cord blood in many other treatments.

At any given time, there are hundreds of Canadian patients searching for an unrelated stem cell donor. Cord blood might just be the chance they need. Read more >>

 

5. Why do scientists use mice in medical research? 

Mice fill a special and important role in medical research. Like humans, mice are mammals, and their bodies undergo many similar processes, such as ageing, and have similar immune responses to infection and disease. Their hormone (endocrine) systems are a lot like ours, too. They’re also one of the first species — along with humans — to have had their complete genome sequenced. From this, we’ve learned they share approximately 80 per cent of their genes with us. Read more >>


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Jenny Ryan

As the year comes to a close and 2019 is set to begin, we take a moment to reflect on the 2018 articles that were among the most popular.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Jenny Ryan

It's hard to believe that 2017 is almost over. As we prepare for 2018, we take a look back on our most-read research, education and discovery stories from the past year. #5 Encouraging meaningful careers in STEM – Part 1 Image To encourage more young people to consider careers in science, technology...


Thursday, October 31, 2019
Catherine Lewis

Drinking the blood of the young, and thereby somehow capturing their youth, is a common literary trope. The ghoulish notion speaks to our cultural fascination with youth, but also to our dread of aging. There’s no evidence-based therapy using the blood of young people to counteract or prevent the...

The science behind young blood


Thursday, October 31, 2019 Catherine Lewis

Drinking the blood of the young, and thereby somehow capturing their youth, is a common literary trope. The ghoulish notion speaks to our cultural fascination with youth, but also to our dread of aging.

There’s no evidence-based therapy using the blood of young people to counteract or prevent the effects of aging, but young blood is an area where science might be beginning to imitate art — at least, sort of.

“When we talk about young blood, we’re really talking about two streams of work,” says Dr. Jason Acker, a senior scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at University of Alberta.

“There’s the more conventional work, looking at how donor factors influence characteristics of blood and outcomes for patients, then there’s another, perhaps more controversial one looking at whether blood from young donors can rejuvenate older patients.”

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Jason Acker

Acker is doing the first stream of work. His team has been the first to show that red blood cells from young women are hardier and younger on average than those of men, and less likely to die during storage in the blood bag. This doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes for patients, though – that’s why Acker’s supporting a randomized control trial involving thousands of patients. The trial is tracking outcomes between sex-matched blood transfusions (i.e. female to female or male to male) and sex-mismatched transfusions.

The other type of work is born from studies that showed if you take a young rat and attach its circulation to an older rat (called “parabiosis”), the older rat got healthier and showed signs of rejuvenation. Was it getting younger?

“That kickstarted a renewed fascination with whether blood from young donors can rejuvenate older recipients,” says Acker. “Now there’s an explosion of research in the biology of aging, and we know there are naturally occurring molecules in the blood of young mice that, when injected into older mice, reproduces many of the regenerating effects from the parabiosis studies.”

The discovery of one of these molecules, growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11), became one of the journal Science’s top 10 breakthroughs of the year in 2014.

“So something that was originally presented in a very controversial way is now seeing science catch up as we identify new things,” Acker says.

There’s a lot of work going on in these areas, but these studies are with animals not people, and there is no proven safe and effective therapy to prevent or undo aging using young blood. This doesn’t stop some from trying, though — companies in the United States have offered “young plasma” transfusions under the guise of clinical trials, costing thousands of dollars to the recipient.

In summary, consider starving a vampire this spooky season by donating blood, and avoid unproven expensive “therapies” — because those are really scary. Happy Halloween!

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A graphic of a beaker with bats flying out of it, and the words "The science behind young blood"

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Thursday, June 07, 2018
Dr. Kendra Hodgkinson

For this instalment of “Meet the researcher”, we met with Dr. Jason Acker, a senior research scientist at Canadian Blood Services who specializes in the manufacturing and storage of blood components. “What gets me up in the morning is the knowledge that through the work of my team and my...


Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Jenny Ryan

While blood transfusion is safer now than ever before, scientists continue to look for ways to reduce risk and ensure the healthiest possible outcomes for patients. A unique collaboration between Canadian Blood Services, The Ottawa Hospital and Université Laval has led to some interesting and...


Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

Dr. Jason Acker was recently awarded the University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) Graduate Student Supervisor Award. We chatted to Dr. Acker to find out what this award means to him.

Dr. Donald Branch honoured by AABB for his career achievements


Thursday, November 07, 2019 Catherine Lewis

Dr. Donald Branch’s career shows a scientist driven by intellectual curiosity. From Gila monster venom to crocodile blood, from HIV to Ebola to huge discoveries improving outcomes for transfusion and transplantation patients, he pursues scientific questions and embraces all the twists and turns that path of inquiry may take.  

“There’s always something new that keeps the interest going,” he says. “It’s pretty hard to figure out nature — it has a way of throwing a wrench in things just when you think you have an answer. Then you have to keep looking. There’s always a new angle, a new hypothesis, that keeps you from getting bored.” 

Last month, Dr. Branch, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation and professor at the University of Toronto, received a prestigious international award honouring his more than 40 years of major contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.  

At this year’s annual meeting of AABB, an international organization representing people and institutions involved in transfusion medicine and cellular therapies, Dr. Branch received the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award. It’s his third award from AABB, but he says he isn’t in it for the accolades.  

“As a scientist, we don’t do our work thinking we’re going to get any awards. I do my science because I like it. It’s fun, interesting and exciting at times; and you get to think of new questions about what is important in biological sciences and how things work,” he says.  

“It’s nice to get an award, because it says what you’ve been doing for fun these last 40 years has paid off — people have found value in it. You have to have a thick skin in research. You have to be able to accept rejection and criticism, especially when you’re writing grants and papers. The work itself is interesting and exciting, but trying to advance the field can be difficult. When you actually get an award for something you’ve done, it’s meaningful because it represents years of hard work and overcoming some of the criticisms and roadblocks along the way.”  

Dr. Branch’s proudest accomplishment is being the first scientist to describe mixed hematopoietic chimerism, a state where after a bone marrow transplant both the recipient and donor’s cells exist together harmoniously in the blood. Published in 1982, Dr. Branch’s finding has been confirmed and generated more than 1200 related publications. Where there is mixed hematopoietic chimerism, there is little if any graft-versus-host disease, and this fact has led other scientists to explore this phenomenon for recipients of other types of transplants, such as hearts, livers, lungs, and kidneys. Introducing mixed hematopoietic chimerism into transplant recipients may lead to them not needing anti-rejection medication.  

“The general thinking at the time was that following bone marrow transplantation where myeloablation (a severe reduction in the ability of a patient’s bone marrow to produce new blood cells) was the protocol, if you begin to see the blood cells increasing in population, you’ve obtained engraftment of the donor stem cells. I found this wasn’t necessarily true. You could have the patient’s own stem cells come back and repopulate the patient, sometimes with no donor cells detectable for long periods of time; so, more genetic testing needed to be done to determine which cells, the patient’s or the donor’s, or both were coming back. This finding was something very new; this was the first time it had been reported,” he says.  

What’s next for Dr. Branch? He has many projects on the go, including one investigating whether HIV/AIDS could be a neuropeptide disease, and another looking at a little-understood phenomenon in some sickle cell disease patients. Many sickle cell patients require regular blood transfusions. After a red blood cell transfusion, hemoglobin levels typically increase and taper off gradually over time. Hyperhemolysis is a life-threatening reaction to blood transfusions in sickle cell patients where instead of staying increased, hemoglobin increases briefly, then crashes lower than even the initial level. This can happen within a matter of hours, and with further transfusions it can happen repeatedly.  

“We don’t know why this happens to some patients, so I’m working to figure out this mechanism,” says Dr. Branch. “If we know why and how this happens, maybe we can figure out how to prevent it.”   

Read the AABB blog to learn more about Dr. Branch’s many contributions to transfusion medicine and hematology.  

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Dr. Donald Branch holds his award at the AABB annual meeting in San Antonio
Dr. Donald Branch holds the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award at the AABB annual meeting in San Antonio. (Photo: Chantale Pambrun)

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Dr. Kendra Hodgkinson

For this instalment of “Meet the researcher”, we met with Dr. Donald Branch, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services who studies infectious diseases and immunology. How long have you been with Canadian Blood Services? I started with the Canadian Red Cross at the Edmonton Blood Centre in December 1985...


Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Lisa Willemse

Wonder drug it may be, but IVIg is a slippery fish. Even after 60 years, little is known about precisely how it works. An encounter with a scientist The first thing you notice when you walk into Dr. Don Branch’s office at 67 College Street in Toronto is how small it seems. And colourful, owing to an...


Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Jenny Ryan

On June 5, Canadian Blood Services was honoured to accept the Canadian Operational Research Society's Omandt Solandt Award at a reception in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Michelle Rogerson, Director, Supply Chain (Atlantic), Canadian Blood Services, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Image...

Dr. Donna Wall wins lifetime achievement award


Friday, September 27, 2019 Catherine Lewis

With a medical career spanning almost 40 years, Dr. Donna Wall has made significant contributions to the evolution of blood and marrow transplantation across North America.

After completing paediatric and paediatric hematology/oncology training in the U.S., Dr. Wall went on to establish blood and marrow transplantation and public cord blood programs in cities including St. Louis and San Antonio. Among her many other collaborations, Dr. Wall has contributed to the transplant community upon her return to Canada. She helped launch Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank and served on the organization’s stem cell expert advisory committee for several years.

Despite recent advances in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, there is still a great need for improvement at the pre- and post-transplant stages. Dr. Wall’s research focuses on better understanding the immune system, with the hope of improving patient outcomes — particularly children undergoing transplant. She has also worked on early phase clinical trials exploring gene therapy for treating childhood acute leukemia.

In recognition of her achievements, Dr. Wall received Canadian Blood Services' Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Honouring Canada's Lifeline event in Ottawa on Sept. 23. 

Dr. Wall joined The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto in 2016 as section head of the blood and marrow transplant/cellular therapy program. She has also chaired the hematopoietic stem cell transplant discipline in the Children’s Oncology Group and holds leadership positions in the Paediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Group, the Canadian Blood and Marrow Transplant Group, and the CIHR-funded Canadian National Transplant Research program.

Dr. Donna Wall

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Jenny Ryan

July marks Cord Blood Awareness Month in certain places around the world. In homage to this important campaign we collected a few related stories from the RED archives and share a bit more information about why Cord Blood matters. Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of more than 80...


Thursday, September 26, 2019
Catherine Lewis

With a focus on improving the lives of patients living with autoimmune diseases, transplant physician and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins has dedicated his career to discovering innovative methods for stem cell transplantation. In the late 1990s, Dr. Atkins and neurologist Dr. Mark Freedman proposed a...


Tuesday, July 09, 2019
Obinna Okwelume

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. Since 2014, Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, has been running a Cord Blood for Research Program to facilitate cord blood research in Canada.

Stem cell transplantation pioneer wins lifetime achievement award


Thursday, September 26, 2019 Catherine Lewis

With a focus on improving the lives of patients living with autoimmune diseases, transplant physician and scientist Dr. Harold Atkins has dedicated his career to discovering innovative methods for stem cell transplantation.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Atkins and neurologist Dr. Mark Freedman proposed a novel way to stop the progression of early aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS) by completely wiping out a patient’s immune system, followed by a stem cell transplant. Their idea was first received with skepticism by the medical community.

In 2016, however, The Lancet (one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals in the world) published their landmark study, which had followed patients for up to 13 years and demonstrated outstanding results: Atkins and Freedman had been able to achieve long-term suppression of all MS-related inflammation, most patients’ disabilities had stabilized, and some patients had even regained abilities they previously lost.

This therapeutic procedure, known as immunoablation and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (IAHSCT), continues to be studied by the medical community worldwide. Today, there is a network of physicians across the U.S. and Europe who are tracking about 1,000 IAHSCT patients. Dr. Atkins has also pioneered work using IAHSCT for two other rare autoimmune disorders: myasthenia gravis and stiff person syndrome. So far, studies have shown great promise.

Canadian Blood Services' stem cell manufacturing program supported the clinical trial, and continues to support treatments. The blood stem cells used in the clinical trial were autologous, meaning they were collected from the participants themselves. Canadian Blood Services staff on site at the Ottawa Hospital collected the stem cells (mobilized from the bone marrow into the blood and collected by an apheresis procedure), and then shipped them to Canadian Blood Services’ stem cell manufacturing facility for processing.

In recognition for his achievements, Dr. Atkins received Canadian Blood Services' Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Honouring Canada's Lifeline event in Ottawa on Sept. 23. 

In addition to his work as a physician at the Ottawa Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, Dr. Atkins is an associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa, a scientist in the Centre for Innovative Cancer Research and the medical director of the Regenerative Medicine Program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Dr. Harold Atkins

Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Veronica Magee

On June 9, The Ottawa Hospital announced an exciting breakthrough treatment for some MS patients. The clinical trial, supported by our autologous stem cell program, was just published in The Lancet and has received world-wide media attention.


Thursday, November 09, 2017
Jennifer Ciavaglia

The James Kreppner Award Program supports legal research relevant to Canadian Blood Services. This year’s award competition closes November 30.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Veronica Magee

Led by The Ottawa Hospital, a groundbreaking trial called Cellular Immunotherapy for Septic Shock is testing the idea that mesenchymal stem cells may be able to help control the body’s immune system to reduce injury and promote healing, while improving its ability to fight infection.

New research suggests novel uses for a plasma-derived medication


Thursday, August 29, 2019 Catherine Lewis

A treatment now used to fight two diseases might have the potential to help patients with other conditions, too, according to new research funded by Canadian Blood Services. 

The new publication, “Treating murine inflammatory diseases with an anti-erythrocyte antibody,” came out Aug. 21 in Science Translational Medicine, a high-impact scientific journal.

Canadian Blood Services supplies hospitals with anti-D, a medication made from human plasma, to treat the autoimmune disease immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and to prevent hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. Plasma is the protein-rich liquid in blood that helps other blood components circulate throughout the body. Anti-D is a solution of antibodies against a protein on red blood cells, made from the plasma of donors. At this time, anti-D isn’t indicated for any other diseases. 

In this new study, Dr. Alan Lazarus, a research scientist and immunologist at the Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation, discovered that a red blood cell antibody called Ter119 works in three mouse models of inflammatory arthritis, as well as one model of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). TRALI is very rare, but it’s one of the leading causes of transfusion-related deaths, and there is no good treatment for it. These findings suggest that anti-D may be a possible treatment for these diseases in humans.

“The knowledge that anti-D could be used to treat TRALI as well as autoimmune diseases other than ITP is good news for patients,” says Dr. Lazarus. “This may have broad therapeutic potential.”

If it’s demonstrated to work in humans, this approach may also provide an alternative to immune suppression, which is how doctors typically approach autoimmune disorders, but not a good option for everyone.

This work is basic research using mouse models, and an essential step in improving medical understanding and opening doors to new possibilities for better patient care


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Dr. Alan Lazarus

Dr. Alan Lazarus is a scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and a professor at the University of Toronto. This work received funding support from Canadian Blood Services, funded by the federal government (Health Canada) and the provincial and territorial ministries of health. The views expressed in the publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the federal government of Canada, or provincial or territorial governments. The work also received funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CSL Limited, and CSL Behring, a biopharmaceutical company that produces human anti-D.


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018
Everad Tilokee

For this installment of “Meet the Researcher” we caught up with Dr. Alan Lazarus a research scientist and immunologist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation. How long have you been at Canadian Blood Services? I've been working with the blood service in Canada since 1994. What’s your role...


Thursday, March 28, 2019
Dr. Geraldine Walsh

We just published our 50th Research Unit. Read on to discover how you can use this trove of information to learn more about the excellent work conducted at the Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation.


Thursday, May 16, 2019
Pilar Castro

As work gets underway, the lead investigators in one of fifteen funded MSM Research projects, discuss the significance of consultation and collaboration to their research, and explain the anticipated impacts and feasibility of introducing alternative donor eligibility screening criteria for source plasma.

New data report on eye and tissue banking in Canada


Tuesday, August 06, 2019 Catherine Lewis

“It was as if someone had taken a teaspoon of sand, dumped it in my eye, taken their thumb and ground it in, and every once in a while, gave it a little poke with a twig.” That’s how Loreen Hardy-Ramey describes living with Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, a hereditary eye condition.

Without the cornea transplant the Arnprior, Ont. woman received in the summer of 2016, Hardy-Ramey’s pain would have continued as her sight faded.

“I say it was my eightieth birthday present because I received this gift just days after my birthday,” she says. Now she’s looking forward to the birth of her great-grandchild, who she’ll be able to see with both eyes.

A new report from Canadian Blood Services provides insight into eye and tissue banking across Canada. Since 2012, Canadian Blood Services has collected data from all Canadian eye and tissue programs on behalf of the Eye and Tissue Data Committee. The 2017 Canadian Eye and Tissue Banking Statistics report, developed with the support of eye and tissue banks across Canada, is the first one where five consecutive years of data are available. This ongoing accumulation of data allows for new insight into provincial and national trends.

Eye and tissues for donation include corneas and other eye tissues, bone, skin, heart tissues, tendons and other musculoskeletal tissues. Depending on the tissue, they can be collected from deceased or living donors.This report presents data on eye and tissues and does not include data on organ donation.

With the data contained in this report, provincial eye and tissue programs can better understand what’s happening in their region and use this understanding to inform how they operate. National organizations use this data to shape their discussions on national practice and policy.

The data also has the potential to support future research by providing a broad dataset to work with. Looking at the data from different provinces can also offer insight into potential ways to share knowledge and resources, while also providing a more nuanced understanding of provincial demand and reliance on internationally-sourced grafts. 

 

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Loreen Hardy-Ramey, a woman in her eighties, stands beside her husband Noel.
Loreen Hardy-Ramey, a cornea recipient from Arnprior, Ont., with her husband Noel.

In 2017…

  • Canadian eye banks distributed 3,820 corneas for transplant
  • Canadian tissue banks distributed 12,652 musculoskeletal, cardiac and skin grafts for transplant
  • Tissue was recovered from more than 4,500 deceased donors and 294 living donors
  • Canadian eye and tissue banks received more than 50,000 deceased donor referrals for potential tissue donation

 

 

 

 


Canadian Blood Services – Driving world-class innovation

Through discovery, development and applied research, Canadian Blood Services drives world-class innovation in blood transfusion, cellular therapy and transplantation—bringing clarity and insight to an increasingly complex healthcare future. Our dedicated research team and extended network of partners engage in exploratory and applied research to create new knowledge, inform and enhance best practices, contribute to the development of new services and technologies, and build capacity through training and collaboration. Find out more about our research impact

The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.

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