Science has always been a core part of our lifesaving work, from our initial start in the basement of the Westminster Children’s Hospital in 1974. Today, our Labs and Research team are leading experts in stem cell transplantation and genetics of the immune system.
We match donors and patients based on their tissue-type, and this is done by taking blood and saliva samples from both. We then analyse these samples in our laboratories. We opened our first official laboratory in 1978 and moved to our current premises at The Royal Free Hospital in 1990.
In 1996, we reached a turning point. When a person needs a stem cell transplant, it’s usually the only thing that will save them. Many factors influence the outcome of a transplant – from how closely donors and patients match to reducing the chances of post-transplant disease and finding new ways to provide transplants. To help us improve the success of a transplant, we opened our first Research Institute.
Our 48 staff provide a histocompatibility and immunogenetics service for the Anthony Nolan register and transplant centres around the world.
Histocompatibility is the process of tissue-typing. This is when we take a blood or saliva sample from a donor or patient, analyse it and find out what tissue-type they are. We match donors to patients based on their tissue-type, so this is an important part of saving lives. We use DNA molecular biology in our work, and this allows us to make a much more accurate analysis. We tissue-type patients, donors and present the results of the final match to the transplant centres and hospitals that have made the request.
As well as tissue-typing, we screen for infectious diseases such as HIV and test individuals blood groups.
We also do clinical work for the renal and liver transplant units of the Royal Free and Middlesex Hospitals. As time is often a factor for solid organ transplants, we use the quickest methods to find the right match.
We have one overall aim: to improve the successful outcome of stem cell transplants. Our work covers two areas: Immunogenetics and Immunotherapy.
Much of our work is focused on immunogenetics, which helps us decide how to find the best donor for a patient. This studies the relationship between the genetics of our immune system and clinical effects.
More information about Immunogenetics
There are lots of complications that can occur post-transplant, for instance, infections. For a patient with an already weak immune system, these can sometimes be fatal. The main problems can be post-transplant viral infections and Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD), where the donor’s immune cells attack the patient’s organs. We look at ways to reduce the chances of these happening.
More information about Immunotherapy