Research Highlights

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Improvements in platelet bacterial testing to support shelf life extension of Canadian Blood Services platelet products

The issue:

Bacterial contamination of platelet products is a serious concern in transfusion practice because platelet storage conditions allow bacteria to replicate to potentially dangerous levels. Transfusion with contaminated platelets may cause septic reactions, which are very rare but dangerous for patients. At Canadian Blood Services, all platelet products are screened for bacteria, but a low number of contaminated products escape detection. Recently, the bacterial screening procedure was modified and will improve bacterial detection.

Improving cord blood product quality

The issue: Cord blood (CB) units are stored frozen at -196°C until they are required for transplantation.  Protocols for storage or shipping of frozen CB units can result in transient warming of the units above critical subzero temperatures, which may impact cell viability and efficacy. Canadian Blood Services examined how different protocols for handling and thawing affected CB quality. 

Evidence supports current transfusion practices for newborns

Because of their immature immune systems, newborns have a higher risk of transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease, where white blood cells from the transfusion produce immune cells that attack the recipient. To prevent this life-threatening condition, red blood cell units transfused to newborns are irradiated.

Research evidence to address the IVIg demand

The issue: Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) is a plasma-derived drug used to treat a wide range of conditions and demand for this expensive product keeps growing. In Canada, IVIg is provided to hospitals by Canadian Blood Services. The Centre for Innovation facilitates research into IVIg to understand the pathogenesis of immune conditions treated by IVIg [e.g. immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and fetal and neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (FNAIT)], explain the poorly understood mechanisms of action of IVIg, and develop IVIG alternatives.

Development research leads to Canada’s first plasma reduced HPC unit

The issue: Apheresis machines are used to isolate autologous blood stem cells from adult donors (a.k.a. Human Progenitor Cells (HPC)). An update in HPC apheresis system technology at the Edmonton hospital led to higher HPC collection volumes as additional plasma was being collected with the stem cells. This resulted in greater DMSO (freezing solution) load to patients and unacceptably long transfusion times. Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Manufacturing Lab had to optimize its process to maintain product quality.


A new process for red blood cell washing

Washing red blood cells before transfusion generates safer products for vulnerable patients by removing most metabolites and proteins that accumulate in the bag during storage. These metabolites can harm certain patient groups (e.g. neonates, who are more sensitive due to their small size). Until recently, Canadian Blood Services used an “open” washing system which meant products were exposed to the environment and had to be used within 24 hours. This time restriction resulted in some products being discarded before they could be used.

2015-2016 Centre for Innovation Progress Report

This past year was a busy and fruitful one for the Centre’s dedicated team of Canadian Blood Services investigators and medical officers, external Canadian researchers and international collaborators.

Beyond the big switch

When Canadian Blood Services switched from manual “platelet-rich plasma” production to semi-automated “buffy-coat” platelet production, an organization-wide research effort concluded that components produced by the new method were as least as good as those produced by the old. In 2010, the new method was implemented at all Canadian Blood Services sites, but efforts to optimize the new manufacturing process were just beginning.