Stem Cells

I’m fascinated by the power of stem cells: Q&A with Dr. Nicolas Pineault


Friday, July 19, 2019

For more than two decades, Dr. Nicolas Pineault has worked in stem cell biology. Since joining Canadian Blood Services in 2012 as a development scientist at the Centre for Innovation, he has conducted research in stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow cells and platelets. Dr. Pineault is an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa (uOttawa).  

Because July is Cord Blood Awareness Month, we talked to Dr. Pineault about his ongoing research in cord blood, as well as his passions and other new projects. 


Q. Tell us about yourself and the work you’re currently engaged in. 

A. I've been working in the field of stem cell biology since my PhD studies, which I did at the University of British Columbia from 1995-2001. Before joining Canadian Blood Services in 2012, I was a research scientist in the research and development division at Héma-Québec. My other passions in life are hockey, sports, camping and spending time with my family.  

At Canadian Blood Services, I oversee two areas of development and research. First, together with my senior research assistant Roya Pasha, I support the operation of the stem cell manufacturing branch of the organization, including the public cord blood bank located here in Ottawa. We also provide technical and knowledge support. For instance, we developed a thaw protocol for cord blood units distributed by Canadian Blood Services, and optimized various processes used in the stem cell manufacturing business.  

My second area of research is studying the impact that stem cell expansion has on the capacity of cord blood stem cells to support engraftment. This research occurs here in our lab at head office and at the animal facility of uOttawa, and is mainly conducted by the graduate students, honour students and post-doctoral fellows whom I supervise and support. 

Q. What are the biggest challenges that currently exist in cord blood research?  

A. Two areas of work are very popular in the field of cord blood hematopoietic research. The first area is improving the engraftment activity of cord blood to lead to faster recovery of transplant patients. This is done either by tricking stem cells to move to the bone more efficiently after transplant, or by expanding stem cells so that more cells are available for transplantation. Our lab does a lot of research in these areas. Another exciting area of work is gene editing, which could one day provide a long-term cure for patients with common hemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell anemia and beta-thalassemia. This approach tries to genetically correct point-mutations in the DNA of the patients’ stem cells so that their progeny-like red cells can produce normal red cells.  

Q. How do you see the role of your research in improving outcomes for Canadian patients?  

A. Stem cell transplantation is used to cure over 80 diseases, including leukemia and immunodeficiencies, and new exciting possibilities are emerging that may cure other diseases or disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy. So, our work focuses on maximising the quality of stem cell products processed and produced at the Canadian Blood Services to improve outcomes of stem cell transplant for Canadian patients.   

Q. What’s your next project? 

A. We're currently working on a project for the stem cell manufacturing lab in Ottawa about donor-lymphocyte infusion, or DLI products. The objective of this project is to demonstrate that the DLI product retains its quality attributes following changes in production requested by The Ottawa Hospital, namely freezing smaller volumes in new bags. In my wish list, I would love to bring in and optimize the technology that can be used to correct sickle-cell mutation in hematopoietic stem cells. This disease is one of the most common genetic disorders in humans, and current treatment options are not curative. 

Q. Why do you care about your work? 

A. I never thought as an undergrad student in biochemistry at Laval University that I would one day work in the field of stem cell biology. This changed after I did my first immunology course and spent a summer internship at the R&D department of the Red Cross in Quebec City. Since then, I have always been fascinated and impressed by the power of stem cells, and by the incredible research that surrounds these special cells. This is one of the passions that fuels my energy for my line of work. 

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Dr Nicolas Pineault wears a lab coat and holds a blue plastic container in a stem cell lab
Dr. Nicolas Pineault

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.

Highlights from the Canadian transfusion community’s annual conference


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Calgary, Alberta, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, played host to this year’s Canadian Society for Transfusion Medicine (CSTM)/Canadian Blood Services/Héma-Québec annual conference. Canadian Blood Services is proud to be a key partner in this conference, which represents the major gathering of Canada’s transfusion medicine and science community each year. Many Centre for Innovation members attend the CSTM conference to network and exchange knowledge with colleagues across Canada. The Centre for Innovation also holds its annual Research Day in the same place and around the same time as the CSTM annual conference each year. I had the opportunity to attend both events and share my highlights here. 

Looking to the future: Centre for Innovation annual Research Day 

On May 29, the extended Canadian Blood Services research network got together to hear the latest developments and discoveries supported by the Centre for Innovation. The Centre for Innovation’s 2019 Research Day looked to the future. A series of talks described work the Centre for Innovation is conducting on “Blood Products of the Future”, which includes research to characterize cold-stored platelets – a transfusion product being explored for use in patients requiring massive transfusion – and to prepare for pathogen inactivation technologies. The “Scientists of the Future” session was an opportunity for Centre for Innovation-affiliated research trainees to give two-minute talks about their research. There were also sessions on new technologies, and advances in the areas of donor and clinical research. Dr. Paul Kubes, an invited speaker from the University of Calgary, gave an excellent talk about his research using advanced microscopy to image platelets in the body – studies that reveal fascinating details about the behaviour of these cell fragments in the body. 

Canadian Blood Services chief scientist Dr. Dana Devine led a discussion of the role of research in “Transfusion Medicine of the Future”. Touching on topics as diverse as the impact of new technologies, products and changing patient needs, to the system-wide challenges that may emerge as a result of climate change, this engaging discussion took full advantage of having a large portion of our usually dispersed research network in the same room.  

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Group photo of scientists and trainees
Centre for Innovation Research Day brought together more than 50 members of our internal and external research network.

CSTM 2019: Transfusing wisely 

The CSTM annual conference began the next day. It brings together nurses, physicians, technologists and others involved in transfusion medicine to share information, learn about the most recent developments in the field and appreciate one another’s contributions to providing effective transfusion therapy. Congratulations to all presenters from Canadian Blood Services – with 16 presentations at the conference’s workshops or oral sessions, and 39 poster presentations, Canadian Blood Services’ participation in the program was high as always.  

MSM Research 

For me, a stand-out session was “Changing Donor Management – MSM and Transgender Considerations”. In this session, some eagerly-awaited but still preliminary results from two projects funded by the MSM Research Program were presented. Mike Morrison,  an award-winning writer and entertainment and lifestyle blogger from Calgary, gave an excellent presentation in which he showed the human side of the MSM deferral policy and its impacts. 

Research highlights 

I enjoyed two sessions that highlighted the latest research being conducted by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec: the “Research Highlights” session and the “Selected Oral Abstracts – Scientific” session. During these we heard about cutting edge research linking viruses and viral infectivity to clotting, new technologies that deepen understanding of blood products, including microfluidics devices to analyze red blood cells and a new type of analyzer for white blood cells. We learned about exciting research to develop monoclonal antibodies as alternative therapies that may someday replace IVIg. There were also talks about the application of research to address issues related to donor health, including iron deficiency anemia. 

A tale of two Canadas 

A final highlight was the session “Transfusion Considerations in the Indigenous Populations and Remote Locations.” This featured three presentations. Jennifer G. Daley Bernier, who has worked in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories for over a decade, described transfusion medicine challenges in Northern Canada. Ann Wilson described transfusion services in Northern Quebec. Darlene Richter and health worker Deanna Twoyoungmen provided the perspectives of Stoney First Nations towards medicine and laboratory procedures. Together these presentations highlighted the many unique challenges to the provision of medical services in northern Canada and to Indigenous people.  

While issues related to geography, weather and dispersed populations abound, it was eye-opening to learn about other perhaps less obvious issues. Communication can be a barrier. For example, there are 11 official languages in the Northwest Territories. To have a system accessible to all, hospital signage and information must be translated into all languages. Many challenges related to the effects of colonization remain. In transfusion medicine, medical histories are critical, but it can be difficult or impossible to get accurate medical histories from people who for various reasons may not have full knowledge of their medical past or who do not trust the medical system. Acknowledging cultural and socio-economic differences and adapting can help ensure everyone in Canada has access to the best care possible. 

These are a few of my highlights. The CSTM conference runs parallel sessions, so it’s impossible to cover everything! Did you attend CSTM 2019 in Calgary? Please comment below to let us know your highlights! 

 

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Button that reads We are the science behind the medicine

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.

Cord blood for research – what you need to know


Tuesday, July 09, 2019

 

July is Cord Blood Awareness Month. Stay tuned for more posts about cord blood and how it helps patients, both through treatment and through research. 


To meet a recognized need for a centralized program providing ethnically sourced cord blood for research projects in Canada, Canadian Blood Services, in partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, launched the Cord Blood for Research Program in 2014. Here's what you need to know: 

Why is there a need for cord blood research? 

On any given day, hundreds of Canadians are in need of an unrelated stem cell donor. Cord blood is a rich source of blood forming stem cells and can be used in the treatment of more than 80 diseases and disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and aplastic anemia.  

The Cord Blood for Research Program facilitates research that could lead to new discoveries and improvements in patient care. Providing access to cord blood for research is essential to increase our knowledge about current processes for collecting, manufacturing and storing cord blood, and to improve cord blood transplantation outcomes. 

Stem cells from cord blood are also being investigated in the development of new treatments for many diseases, providing hope for more safe and effective medical therapies in the future. Other biomedical research unrelated to stem cells may also use cord blood, and lead to new discoveries that may improve medical care in the future. 

How do we source the cord blood used for research?  

Not all cord blood units are suitable for banking. In fact, the Canadian Blood Services Cord Blood Bank discards some of its cord blood collections, primarily due to insufficient volume, low number of total nucleated cells or low number of stem cells contained in the collected cord blood.  

With mothers’ consent, collected cord blood products that do not meet the criteria for storage in the Cord Blood Bank are distributed by the program to approved research projects, reducing the waste of this precious resource. This happens in partnership with our collection sites in Brampton, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Vancouver. Women who deliver at any of these sites are given the option to consent to donate their baby’s cord blood for biomedical research. 

What are some of the recent research areas?  

The Cord Blood for Research Program is a conduit to promote advances in the fields of transfusion, cellular therapy, and transplantation medicine. In the last fiscal year, the program distributed 155 cord blood units for research. Some recent projects supported with cord blood products from the program include:  

  • An automated manufacturing solution for expansion of blood stem cells 

  • Cell-based therapy for experimental acute kidney injury 

  • Hematopoietic stem cells and transfusion medicine 

  • Regulatory T cells from discarded human thymus for adoptive cell immunotherapy: moving garbage to gold 

  • Stem Cells of the musculoskeletal system: An epigenetics study from childhood to adulthood 

  • Study of immuno-therapeutics anti-tumor efficacy in humanized mice 

Our research network works to share findings from this widely to encourage the application of the knowledge created through the program.  


During Cord Blood Awareness Month, make some time to learn more about why cord blood matters and our Cord Blood for Research Program.  You can also watch this video about donating cord blood.

To donate, visit blood.ca/donatecord

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Nathaly, a mother who donated cord blood, holds her baby and toddler.
Nathaly, a cord blood donor, with Knox and Navi.

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.

Stories worth sharing: Effectively communicating “Research that matters!”


Thursday, July 04, 2019

Highlighting a recent blog post from Science Borealis, this “stories worth sharing” post gives background on the welcome support the Centre for Innovation’s 2018 Lay Science Writing Competition received from two key partners. 

The Centre for Blood Research (CBR) and the Centre for Innovation have a long-standing relationship. We partner regularly to deliver training and education events. The CBR helped to develop the competition and promoted it to their large network of trainees, support that helped guarantee that this inaugural competition ran smoothly and successfully.  

The Centre for Innovation also looked to Science Borealis, Canada’s leading national community of science writers and communicators, to lend their expertise as science communicators and champions of science communication in Canada. It was a pleasure to receive support from Science Borealis, and to work with Lené Gary, its general sciences editor, who supported the competition process.  

To learn more, read Gary's post about the competition, originally published on the Borealis Blog in June 2019.


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.

Canadian Blood Services’ scientist recognized for his mentorship of graduate students


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Congratulations to Canadian Blood Services' Dr. Jason Acker, who was awarded the University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association Graduate Student Supervisor Award at a ceremony on March 22, 2019. This award recognizes "those faculty members who excel in the supervision of graduate students”. What makes this award even more special – Dr. Acker was nominated by one of his graduate students, Ruqayyah Almizraq. We chatted to Dr. Acker to learn more.

Dr. Jason Acker
Dr. Jason Acker and Ruqayyah Almizraq at the University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association award ceremony

 

Q: Tell us more about this award?

"I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to mentor and work alongside an outstanding group of graduate students over the past 17 years that I’ve been at the University. While the GSA Graduate Student Supervisor Award is intended to recognize faculty who excel in the supervision of graduate students, I think this award really recognizes the environment that we create to allow students to explore and grow as researchers. At Canadian Blood Services we have been very intentional in providing our scientists and clinicians with the resources and tools to create a supportive environment for our trainees to excel in transfusion science research. This award is a testament to our pursuit of excellence in training the next generation of transfusion scientists.”

Q: What makes this award so special for you?

“I am particularly humbled by this event as it was a student-nominated award presented by the Graduate Students’ Association which I received. To be nominated by the graduate program would have been great, but to be nominated and selected by the students is extra special!

I do not see myself as the wise man sitting on the mountain and the students as the seekers of knowledge or wisdom. I see myself as the experienced tour guide who has been fortunate to have traveled many of the back roads and trails of an interesting scientific discipline. While I may be worldly in my travels, I am not the world’s traveler and as such I do not have all of the answers nor have I come to my final destination. I enjoy traveling together with my students as I am a learner too!"


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.

University of Alberta’s Timothy Caulfield receives James Kreppner Award


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The 2018 Canadian Blood Services’ James Kreppner Award has been awarded to Timothy Caulfield, professor and research director in the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.   

Valued at $50,000, the award will support Professor Caulfield’s project to analyze the marketing practices of private cord blood banks, assess their claims, and consider how regulatory tools can help ensure services marketed are done in a scientifically informed and evidence-based manner.    

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Canadian Blood Services' James Kreppner Award awarded to Timothy Caulfield

“The entire Health Law Institute team is thrilled about this award, and we truly appreciate the opportunity to dig into the complex issues associated with donation, blood products and policy development,” says Professor Caulfield. “The research seems both timely and needed. We are lucky to have an award of this nature and hope our work will reflect James Kreppner's fearless analysis of controversial issues.”  

James Kreppner was a former board member of Canadian Blood Services, a lawyer, and a strong advocate for patients’ rights and blood safety. He suffered a severe form of hemophilia-A – a genetic disorder that makes it difficult for blood to clot, and his condition often required transfusions of blood products. In 1985, he became infected with HIV and hepatitis C through tainted blood products.  

Mr. Kreppner became a key figure in establishing the public inquiry into contaminated blood and testified twice before The Krever Commission. He was also a long-time volunteer and member of the Canadian Hemophilia Society before his passing ten years ago on May 14, 2009.   

This annual award named in his honour supports one high-quality research project that explores legal and policy questions relevant to the products and services provided by Canadian Blood Services. The award’s research priorities include the legal and regulatory aspects of (a) donation, collection, storage, and use of blood, blood products, and hematopoietic stem cells; and (b) organ and tissue donation and transplantation.   

Through a series of funding programs and research collaborations, the Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation conducts and supports research in key priority areas, including projects that span the translational continuum from “bench to bedside.”  

The 2019 competition for the James Kreppner Award will open for applications in Fall 2019 and will support one project with up to $50,000 for a period of one year.   

Find out more about current and past James Kreppner Award program projects:  

Further reading:  


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.

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.

Nominations now open for the 2019 Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award


Monday, May 13, 2019

Do you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the blood system in Canada?   

Who can be nominated?  

Recipients of the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award are individuals whose landmark contributions are recognized as both extraordinary and world class in the field of transfusion or transplantation medicine, stem cell or cord blood research in Canada and/or abroad. 

To be nominated for the Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award, an individual must have contributed significantly to improving the safety and/or quality of blood, blood products, stem cells and/or cord blood or has made noteworthy improvements or advances in transfusion or transplantation medicine practice. Their record of publication should be of significance and their professional reputation should be aligned with the goals and reputation of Canadian Blood Services, reflecting a quality culture driven by excellence. 

The award will be presented on September 23, 2019 in Ottawa at the annual national Honouring Canada’s Lifeline event where we honour our donors, volunteers, peer recruiters and partners from across the country and across our products for their outstanding dedication and achievements. 

 

What's the nomination process? 

Nomination requirements 

  • Provide a short introduction and summary in 150 words or less of the nominee’s contribution to improving the safety and/or quality of blood, blood products or stem cells, or contribution to advances in transfusion medicine practice. 
  • Present a brief biography including academic, research, clinical and administrative positions, awards or recognitions. 
  • Outline how the work of the nominee is set apart from the work of others in the field. 
  • Provide a nominee’s full current curriculum vitae and contact information for the nominee including full name, mailing address, telephone number(s) and email address. 
  • Provide name and contact information for the nominator(s). 

Note: Candidates should be unaware that they have been nominated for this award. 

Submit nominations in writing to the address below:  

By mail:  

Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award Nominating Committee 

c/o Dr. Isra Levy, Vice President, Medical Affairs and Innovation 

Canadian Blood Services 

1800 Alta Vista Drive 

Ottawa, Ontario K1G 4J5 

By email:  

isra.levy@blood.ca    

 

Submission deadline: May 30, 2019 

The nominator of the awardee, and the nominee selected, will be notified by the end of June 2019. 

 

Past honourees 

The Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award came into existence in 2002. To date, the Canadian Blood Services Board of Directors has selected the following individuals for this prestigious award: 

• Dr. John Bowman, 2002 

• Ms. Marie Cutbush Crookston, 2002 

• Dr. Morris A. Blajchman, 2003 

• Dr. Peter Pinkerton, 2004 

• Dr. John Freedman, 2006 

• Dr. Hans Messner, 2007 

• Mr. Justice Horace Krever, 2008 

• Dr. Gail Rock, 2009 

• Dr. Victor Blanchette, 2010 

• Dr. Allen Eaves and Dr. Connie Eaves, 2011 

• Dr. Celso Bianco, 2012 

• The Canadian Hemophilia Society, 2013 

• Dr. John Dossetor, 2013 

• Dr. Gershon Growe, 2014 

• Dr. Bruce McManus, 2015 

• Dr. David Lillicrap, 2016 

• Nancy Heddle, 2017 

• André Picard, 2018 

  

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2019 Canadian Blood Services Lifetime Achievement Award

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.

Competition winner: Optimizing Cord Blood Donor Recruitment


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dr. Jennie Haw's prize-winning entry in our Lay Science Writing Competition describes research underway to optimize cord blood donor recruitment for the national, public cord blood bank. 

A Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank (CBB) collection specialist waits outside a hospital labour and delivery room for a woman to give birth. Sometimes she can hear the newborn cry and when she does she knows that a hospital nurse will soon push through the delivery room doors and hand her a carefully labeled plastic bag containing a still-warm placenta and cord. Once she receives this bag, she quickly pushes the cart to a collection room and begins a finely-timed and orchestrated sequence of steps to extract as much cord blood as possible. Cord blood (the blood remaining in the placenta and cord) contains powerful blood stem cells that can regenerate into any cell in the body’s blood system making these cells an effective treatment for diseases such as leukemia and anemia. The potential to provide stem cell transplants for waiting patients in Canada, and globally, depends on women deciding to donate cord blood.  

Since 2015, the CBB has been recruiting, collecting and banking cord blood units from donors in four collection-site hospitals across Canada (Ottawa, Brampton, Edmonton, and Vancouver). Effective donor recruitment is critical to building a robust inventory of cord blood units that meets the needs of patients. As the CBB works to build its inventory, important questions regarding donor recruitment remain.  

Why do some women donate cord blood while others don’t? What are donors’ experiences of recruitment and donation? What’s important to women? What does donating cord blood mean to donors and potential donors? How can donor recruitment processes be optimized? Working together with Dr. Dana Devine (Chief Scientist, Canadian Blood Services) and Dr. Jessica Polzer (Associate Professor, Western University), these are some of the questions guiding my research project aimed at optimizing donor recruitment for the CBB.  

Very few researchers have examined cord blood donors and recruitment. In one study, researchers found that information and reminders about cord blood donation provided at specific times during a woman’s pregnancy could prompt her to donate. These findings are promising, but the researchers also wrote that any positive effects of these recruitment prompts could be minimized by the broader context in which cord blood donation happens. 

As a sociologist, I take the view that nothing in the social world happens in a vacuum. People (and organizations) don’t make decisions or act independently of the broader context within which they live and act. Context includes people, organizational structures, ideas, assumptions, norms, and even the physical environment. Qualitative research methods (data are words and not numbers) are an effective way to learn about people and processes within their specific context. Using these methods, my study generates data through in-depth, one-on-one interviews with people in the “real world” who are best positioned to answer my research questions.  

In Phase 1 of my project (2018), I conducted collection site visits and interviewed CBB collection site staff (from all four collection sites) and managers of the CBB. I wanted to understand, in detail, how the CBB operates, and the donor recruitment and cord blood collection processes. Donor recruitment is only one part of a larger CBB system. So, to optimize donor recruitment, it’s necessary to understand how the larger system operates.  

Results from these interviews demonstrate that donor recruitment processes are complex and involve multiple people operating within different organizational frameworks (e.g. hospital, CBB), often with different goals and priorities. Our findings confirm the importance of context to donor recruitment and identify influential contextual factors that we categorized into: birthing context (e.g. women’s birthing expectations, women’s physical status), hospital context (e.g. relationships between hospital and cord blood staff, physical layout of the hospital), CBB organizational context (e.g. hours of operation, consent process), and sociocultural context (e.g. language, belief systems). Our results make an important contribution to building an evidence base of contextual factors to consider in cord blood donor recruitment. By publishing these results we’re able to share this evidence with other cord blood banks. 

In Phase 2 (2019), I’ll interview donors and potential donors to the CBB to better understand cord blood recruitment and donation from their perspective. Through in-depth interviews with women who have donated and may donate, I’ll generate data about their experiences with cord blood donation, their reasons for donating (or not), what information is important to them when considering cord blood donation, how they came to the decision to donate (or not), and what cord blood donation means to them. Through detailed systematic study of women’s perspectives, we can add to our understanding of the complex recruitment puzzle and provide recommendations to the CBB. 

Optimizing donor recruitment processes will contribute to building a robust cord blood inventory, strengthening the stem cell transplant system, and increasing the potential to impact the lives of waiting patients in Canada and around the world.  


Dr. Jennie Haw is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Postdoctoral Fellow. Working with Dr. Dana Devine (Chief Scientist, Canadian Blood Services) and Dr. Jessica Polzer (Associate Professor, Western University) the aim of her current project is to optimize cord blood donor recruitment for the national, public cord blood bank. As a sociologist, Jennie is interested in understanding health and health systems in relation to the individual and society. The Canadian Blood Services’ Lay Science Writing Competition provided an excellent opportunity to further develop her communication skills and expand the reach and impact of her research. Jennie spends her free time running on the many paths and trails in Ottawa and the surrounding areas. 

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Jennie Haw

 


The 2018 Canadian Blood Services Lay Science Writing Competition was organized by the Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation with welcome support from Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia. 

Winning science research writers announced


Friday, April 05, 2019

To give our research trainees an opportunity to showcase their research, while honing their writing skills, Canadian Blood Services teamed-up with Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research, to launch our first-ever Lay Science Writing Competition.


“It’s important for researchers to be able to explain what they do in an engaging and understandable manner to those who don’t work in research. This competition is a great opportunity for trainees to hone their skills in public science communication.”

Dr. Dana Devine

Canadian Blood Services Chief Scientist


Whether it was the chance to be published or the prizes, many trainees responded to the challenge, submitting entries that reflect a breadth of research in blood, plasma, stem cells, and organs and tissues. Within the competition theme of “Research that matters”, each entry was to describe the impact of their individual or lab’s research on the transfusion and transplantation system and/or on our society. A jury of professional communicators and scientists was given the challenging task of reviewing and judging the submissions on their writing and storytelling merits, assigning a ranking and selecting the top 3 science research writers.

…and the winners of the 2019 Lay Science Writing Competition are:

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Winners Lay Science Writing Competition 2019

Our sincere congratulations to all!


“The competition provided an excellent opportunity to further develop my communication skills and expand the reach and impact of my research.”

Dr. Jennie Haw,

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Jennie Haw

1st prize winner, CIHR Health Systems Impact fellow and Canadian Blood Services researcher: Dr. Jennie Haw


Over the coming weeks, we’ll share each of the prize-winning entries on the R.E.D blog, so watch this space to learn more about these budding writers and their research.

The 2018 Canadian Blood Services Lay Science Writing Competition was organized by the Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation with welcome support from Science Borealis and the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia.


Looking back on 2018: Top-five most-read stories from the RED blog


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

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.

#5: Raising awareness for living organ donation

In April each year, we honour organ donors and their families during National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week and encourage Canadians to consider organ donation, register their intent to donate, and discuss their wishes with families. This article focuses on raising awareness for living organ donation and was published in November on Giving Tuesday.

Kidney transplantation is life-saving and life-altering. Until we can clone or grow or print kidneys (who knows what the future holds), there will continue to be a need for kidney transplants. Transplantation through living donation has the potential to remove many people from dialysis and the transplant waitlists and alter the lives of not just the patients, but their families as well.”
– Kathy Yetzer, Associate Director, Living Donation, Canadian Blood Services.

Read more

 

#4: Meet the Researcher: Dr. Elisabeth Maurer

For the last few years, we’ve been fortunate to conduct interviews with our staff and adjunct scientists in this series of blog posts titled “Meet the Researcher…” This interview with Dr. Elizableth Maurer was number 4 on our most-read list.

"It is my vision that my work could improve the lives of others — if screening platelets could help reduce the number of patients who do not respond as well as hoped to platelet transfusion, and save more lives, this would be very rewarding.”" ~ Dr. Elisabeth Maurer, adjunct scientist, Canadian Blood Services

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#3 In the news: UBC research brings us one step closer to universal blood

Exciting research from the University of British Columbia could make it easier to match blood to patients, by turning all blood into type O, the universal donor. This work was presented earlier in 2018 at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Boston, and created quite a buzz. We chatted wit our Chief Scientist, Dr. Dana Devine, and  Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu to learn more about this exciting advance.

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Our top two blog posts are related to blood donor eligibility criteria and the research program that is working toward evolving the eligibility criteria for men who have sex with men.

#2 MSM Research Grant Program launches second funding competition

The objective of the MSM Research Grant Program is to ensure the generation of adequate evidence-based research for alternative screening approaches for blood or plasma donors, which could evolve the current eligibility criteria for MSM while maintaining the safety of the blood supply. The program is administered by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec with funding support from Health Canada.

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#1 The evolution of a donor deferral policy: where do we go from here?

Dr. Mindy Goldman, medical director at Canadian Blood Services, along with coauthors Dr. Dana Devine and Dr. Sheila O’Brien also from Canadian Blood Services and Dr. Andrew Shih with the Vancouver General Hospital,  published a review article in the scientific journal Vox Sanguinis, titled Donor deferral policies for men who have sex with men: past, present and future. This blog post provides an overview of the publication.

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For the latest on this topic, an update on the MSM Research Program was published in December 2018

Thank you for reading about Research, Education and Discovery at Canadian Blood Services. We look forward to reporting on more exciting science, researchers and innovations in 2019 related to blood, plasma, stem cells, and organs and tissues. Happy New Year!

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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.