Bethesda, Md. - The National Blood Foundation (NBF) Board of Trustees recently announced the recipients of the 2008 NBF Scientific Research Grants. Each grant recipient will receive up to $65,000 to pursue either a one- or two-year research project in the field of blood banking, transfusion medicine or cellular and related biological therapies. To date, NBF has awarded more than $5.5 million in grants since 1985 to 152 early-career researchers. This year’s recipients are: Hava Avraham, PhD; Rose Beck, MD, PhD; Christine Cserti-Gazdewich, MD; Nobuharu Fujii, MD, PhD; Mark Looney, MD; Adam Munday, PhD; and Beth Shaz, MD.
“The funding from NBF’s research grant program is key to supporting early career researchers as they explore diverse, cutting edge topics that will contribute to the further advancement of transfusion medicine and cellular therapies worldwide,” said Connie Westhoff, PhD, chair of NBF's Grants Review Committee. “This program serves an important role in support of research and is the only grant program that directly focuses on professionals in the transfusion medicine and cellular therapies community.”
Proposals for NBF grants are evaluated on the basis of their scientific merit; relevance to and impact on transfusion medicine and science. NBF scientific research grants are made possible by contributions from NBF's Council on Research and Development (CORD) members and its NBF Partners, along with gifts from individuals, institutions and foundations.
The following are synopses of the seven funded proposals:
Hava Avraham, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Mobilization by Cannabinoids
Hematopoietic stem cells, which have successfully been used to treat life-threatening diseases such as multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, can now be collected by releasing them from the bone marrow using a substance that degrades the proteins that anchor these cells, “mobilizing” them into the blood stream. Mobilizing cells is generally done with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, or G-CSF, but the mobilization of hematopoietic and progenitor stem cells can vary among patients, and poor mobilization has been observed using G-CSF in patients with cancer and genetic disorders. The aim of this study is to determine if additional mobilizing agents could be developed by using locally produced endocannabinoids, the body’s own cannabis. If successful, such agents could be used alone to provide new avenues for mobilization or combined with G-CSF for a synergistic effect.
Rose Beck, MD, PhD, Case Western Reserve University
Notch-induced NK Cells for Cell Therapy in Hematologic Malignancy
Natural killer cells are white cells that specialize in killing tumor cells. Although a patient’s immune system normally harnesses these cells to fight off disease, natural killer cells can be overwhelmed when tumor cells are extensive, such as in patients with severe leukemia. This study will attempt to grow a large amount of functional natural killer cells in the lab and infuse them into patients with leukemia to help kill cancerous cells. If successful, these lab-grown natural killer cells could be used in conjunction with chemotherapy to kill the small number of leftover tumor cells that often are undetectable after chemotherapy, but usually persist and can grow to cause leukemia relapse.
Christine Cserti-Gazdewich, MD, University of Toronto/University Health Network
Cytoadherence in Pediatric Malaria (CPM) Study
This research aims to determine whether there is a definitive correlation between certain blood groups, including ABO, and severe malaria outcomes in children. The importance of being group O versus non-O, for example, will be noted. If such correlations are found, knowing the blood group profile of a child with malaria could help predict if he or she will do well or poorly and help determine the most appropriate level of clinical care. Identifying the most vulnerable children also may promote the development of new, blood group-specific treatments or even change blood transfusion therapy, favoring the transfusion of universal blood group O into non-O and O patients alike.
Nobuharu Fujii, MD, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Identification of Novel H-Y Antigens Using Artificial Neural Network
While bone marrow transplant has a successful outcome for many patients, in others cells from the donor’s immune system can attack the patient’s tissues, causing graft-versus-host disease, or GVHD — one of the main causes of death after transplantation. This research will focus on studying specific proteins involved in the GVHD process, with hope that understanding the intricacies of the disease can help develop strategies to prevent it. The study aims to identify proteins as the critical link to creating new strategies to control the immune reaction that cause donor cells to attack a recipient’s tissues. Findings could help improve outcomes in both bone marrow and hematopoietic cell transplantation.
Mark Looney, MD, University of California, San Francisco
The Role of Platelets in Experimental Transfusion-related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI)
The goal of this study is to obtain a better understanding of the mechanisms behind TRALI and how it produces damage to the microvessels in the lung. Neutrophils have been implicated in TRALI and other types of acute lung injury, but the role of platelets has not been completely ascertained. Platelets traditionally play a major role in blood clotting, but emerging data has shown they also
could be involved in inflammation. Using an animal model, this study will seek to understand the molecular interactions between neutrophils and platelets in TRALI. A better understanding of the mechanisms that cause TRALI could be essential in establishing clinical approaches to prevent or arrest it.
Adam Munday, PhD, Puget Sound Blood Center
Platelet Cold Receptors: Potential for Improving Platelet Cold Storage
While life-saving platelets often are available, shortages occur that can compromise patient care. The goal of this study is to determine whether it is possible to extend platelet shelf life by lowering the temperatures of the products without compromising their function. This research will focus on determining what effects the activation of temperature receptors found on the surface of platelets have in changing platelet shape and physiology. The study also will examine whether specific substances (antagonists) can modulate or reverse the activation of these cold receptors, thus preventing the detrimental changes observed during the cooldown process. Additionally, the study will determine whether a slow cooldown of platelets produces the same harsh molecular changes seen when the temperature of platelets is brought down more quickly.
Beth Shaz, MD, Grady Memorial Hospital
Blood Donation Considerations in African Americans
In metropolitan Atlanta, blacks constitute 35 percent of the population and only 15 percent of the blood supply. In contrast, Caucasians constitute approximately 50 percent of the population and 75 percent of the blood supply. This study will use census and donor demographic data from the American Red Cross Blood Services Southern Region to accurately determine the rates of ethnic and racial group blood donation. A published epidemiologic model also will be used to estimate a potential blood donor pool for blacks. The study also will investigate motivators and barriers to donation in the black community. Obtaining these statistics will help to develop better interventions in the black community, with the hope of leading to higher rates of blood donation and a more diverse blood supply.
About 2009 Scientific Research Grant Applications
NBF is currently accepting scientific research grant applications. Grant applications are available on the NBF Web page (www.aabb.org/nbf), or by contacting NBF at +1.301.215.6552 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications must be received by December 15, 2008. Grant awards will be announced in June 2009. NBF, a program of AABB that was established in 1983, is dedicated to advancing transfusion medicine, cellular and related biological therapies, and blood banking by funding scientific research that benefits patients and donors.
Established in 1947, AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks) is an international, not-for-profit association dedicated to the advancement of science and the practice of transfusion medicine and related biological therapies. The association is committed to improving health by developing and delivering standards, accreditation and educational programs and services to optimize patient and donor care and safety. AABB membership consists of approximately 1,800 institutions and 8,000 individuals, including physicians, scientists, administrators, medical technologists, nurses, researchers, blood donor recruiters and public relations personnel. Members are located in all 50 states and 80 countries.