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New technology could save the lives of more transplant patients, research suggests

Research by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan shows new tissue typing method could ‘revolutionise’ the field of stem cell transplantation

New technology could ‘significantly’ improve stem cell transplant outcomes, new research by the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan has revealed.

The promising technology has the potential to ‘revolutionise’ the field of tissue (or HLA) typing, according to the researchers.

It allows Anthony Nolan’s scientists to obtain very high quality and ‘unparalleled’ information about a patient and donor’s tissue types which enables them to make the best possible matches.

This, they say, ‘could ultimately result in considerable improvement in survival rates post-transplant’.

The research, published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, explores the findings from early work by the Anthony Nolan team with the new Pacific Biosciences’ Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) DNA sequencing technology.

Laboratory scientist at Anthony Nolan using the new DNA sequencing technology.
Dr Neema Mayor, Senior Post-Doctoral Research Scientist at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘We are very excited about the potential benefits of this DNA sequencing technology in being able to provide us with unparalleled information about the tissue types of our patients and donors.
‘The clinical impact of achieving this level of resolution HLA typing data is likely to be considerable, particularly because in organ and blood stem cell transplantation matching donors and recipients for their HLA is of utmost importance.
‘This level of matching can reduce the risk of complications such as graft-versus-host disease and, consequently, the risk of mortality – potentially saving more lives.’

Older methods of HLA typing have limitations because they can result in ambiguous tissue types.
The latest technology resolves this by generating exceptionally long DNA read lengths and by sequencing different tissues types in isolation.

Caption: The new Pacific Biosciences RS II DNA sequencer in action.

Dr Mayor said: ‘The implications of this technology could be enormous, allowing for accurate HLA typing in a single experiment and making redundant the need for multiple experiments and cross-referencing of results.
‘This is significant as high resolution HLA typing has been shown to significantly improve outcomes when stem cells transplant recipients and their unrelated donors are matched very closely.’
Anthony Nolan invested in two Pacific Biosciences RS II DNA sequencers a year ago; the first stem cell registry in the world to invest in this particular technology, which enables SMRT DNA Sequencing of full-length HLA genes.
Dr Mayor said: ‘As well as believing that this technology will ultimately improve post-transplant survival rates and quality of life, Anthony Nolan is confident that tissue typing should be faster. In short, there is the potential for more donors to be typed every year.’
Professor Steven Marsh, Director of Bioinformatics at Anthony Nolan, added: ‘Anthony Nolan was the world’s first bone marrow donor registry when it was founded more than 40 years ago. Our work with this new technology shows that, even after four decades of saving lives, we remain a pioneering organisation.
‘By investing in what we believe to be the gold standard of tissue typing, we have once again shown our commitment to improving the lives of people with blood cancer. We look forward to a bright future for Anthony Nolan and for stem cell transplant patients and we firmly believe this new technology will be an important part of that goal.’
To read the full research paper, visit




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