Study Shows Using Adult Stem Cells From Bone Marrow is Safe

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 17, 2011   |   12:42PM   |   Minneapolis, MN

A study by University of Minnesota Medical School researchers shows that mobilizing adult stem cells from bone marrow is safe for the adult stem cell donors.

Many people are familiar with “bone marrow transplants”, which are actually “adult stem cell transplants”, though it wasn’t until the 1990′s that the first human adult stem cell was successfully isolated and purified. Bone marrow adult stem cell donors provide a life‑saving donation of cells for people with various cancers, anemias, and a growing number of other conditions. Collecting the life‑saving adult stem cells directly from bone marrow is a surgical outpatient procedure.

But the adult stem cells can also be collected from peripheral blood. Donors can be given a protein growth factor/drug called granulocyte colony‑stimulating factor (G‑CSF; also called filgrastim or Neupogen). This stimulates adult stem cells to move out of the bone marrow and into the blood stream, a process called mobilization. Once in the blood, large doses of adult stem cells can be collected safely and without surgery by a process called apheresis, avoiding bone marrow harvest in the operating room.

Since 2003, over 70% of “bone marrow” or “stem cell” donors have been asked to donate mobilized cells from peripheral blood (Peripheral Blood Stem Cells, PBSC.). Donor adult stem cells are used in a little less than half of the over 50,000 adult stem cell transplants done every year. Previously, there had been some concern that high doses of G-CSF given to donors might result in abnormalities in donors’ cells.

The current study, which was published in the journal Blood, shows that it is unlikely that the mobilization procedure puts healthy stem cell donors at risk for later development of cell abnormalities. Dr. Jeffrey McCullough, senior author on the study, said:

“Furthermore, our data support the conclusion that G‑CSF does not induce chromosomal instability through the PBSC mobilization process and remains a safe therapy for healthy stem cell donors.”

Adult stem cells remain the gold standard for actual patient treatments.