Umbilical cord blood (UCB) provides a rich source of stem cells for transplantation after myeloablative therapy. One major disadvantage of UCB transplantation is delayed platelet engraftment. We propose to hasten platelet engraftment by expanding the number of megakaryocyte (MK) precursors (CD34/CD41 cells) through cytokine stimulation within a closed, pre-clinical liquid culture system. Clinical engraftment data suggest a 5- to 10-fold increase in MK precursors in a UCB unit can accelerate platelet engraftment, so this was our goal.
Thirteen UCB samples from full-term births were Ficoll-separated and frozen for subsequent use. On thawing, the mononuclear cell population was positively selected for CD34+ expression. The cells were cultured in gas-permeable Teflon-coated bags in serum-free medium containing the following cytokines: recombinant human interleukin-3, recombinant human Flt3 ligand, recombinant human stem cell factor, and recombinant human thrombopoietin. MK lineage cell expansion was assessed using mononuclear cell count and flow cytometry (CD34/41, CD41, CD34/61, and CD61 expression) on days 7, 11, and 14.
Optimal expansion of CD34/41 and CD41 cells was observed at day 11, with a median 6-fold and 33-fold increase in the starting cell doses, respectively. CD34/61 and CD61 cell expansion at day 11 was 7-fold and 14-fold, respectively.