NYBC Laboratory of Complement Biology Receives NIH Grant to Study “Mechanisms Controlling Transfusion-Associated Antibody Responses in Sickle Cell Disease

Five-year, $2.3 Million Study Could Directly Benefit Patients with Sickle Cell Disease by Identifying How the Disease Responds to Transfusions

The New York Blood Center’s Laboratory of Complement Biology has received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study mechanisms to control successful transfusions in patients with sickle cell disease.

NYBC is a leader in the research and development of novel transfusion strategies to combat the devastating effects of sickle cell disease.

Dr. Karina Yazdanbakhsh, head of the laboratory and member of the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute (LFKRI), will observe how patients inflicted with sickle cell disease respond to life-saving blood transfusions. More specifically, Dr. Yazdanbakhsh will investigate the process by which maladaptive antibodies reject transfused cells, helping to mitigate patient side effects with these advancements.

People diagnosed with sickle cell disease inherit the condition from their parents, and over the course of their lives as many as 90% of them will need a life-saving blood transfusion. While transfusions continue to be a dominant treatment option for patients suffering from sickle cell disease, antibodies can still proceed to combat the positive effects of transfusions, a process called alloimmunization.

Dr. Yazdanbakhsh’s lab will research a subset of T cells, called follicular helper T cells, and how they control alloimmunization in patients with sickle cell disease. A central goal in this initiative will be to discover potential biomarkers that can be identified in advance, delineating those patients who may be at higher risk of encountering complications.

“By intricately profiling these follicular helper T cells, we expect to discover ways in which the activity of these cells can essentially be ‘switched off’ just before a transfusion, as a means to prevent alloimmunization,” Dr. Yazdanbakhsh said.                                               

 “Another component we are investigating is how sickle cell disease reacts to the effects of vaccination,” Dr. Yazdanbakhsh said. “These follicular helper T cells are very important in vaccine responses. By characterizing these cells we hope to discover how to manipulate them to optimize vaccination in these patients who are at high risk of infections.”

In 2014, Dr. Yazdanbakhsh received an additional four-year grant from the NIH to study hyperactive immune cells in patients with sickle cell disease. While these are independent studies, they both rely on the development of a broader understanding of sickle cell disease and transfusion biology. The research may offer multipronged, innovative prevention strategies to resist the process of alloimmunization, optimizing the effects of life-saving transfusion treatments for future patients.

More than ten years ago, NYBC's National Cord Blood Program (NCBP) provided the first cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor to cure sickle cell disease in a twelve-year-old boy.

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About Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute

Since 1964, LFKRI has led the way in blood research, breaking new ground in transfusion medicine and disease treatment and prevention. The institute is committed to furthering research efforts that support the discovery of new blood-related products, techniques, and therapies. LFKRI's work has dramatically impacted global health, improved blood banking, nurtured a generation of scientists, and added significantly to the world's store of biomedical knowledge. From the beginning, LFKRI has supported basic research to understand blood and disease at the molecular level as well as translational research that transforms the findings into major breakthroughs. With 17 state-of-the-art laboratories and close to 100 researchers, LFKRI brings world-class research to life every day. For further information, visit http://www.nybloodcenter.org/lfkri.do?sid0=64

About New York Blood Center

Now more than 50 years old, New York Blood Center (NYBC) is a nonprofit organization that is one of the largest independent, community-based blood centers in the country. NYBC’s mission is to serve the 20 million people in the New York metropolitan area — and more broadly, our nation and our world — by alleviating human suffering and preserving human life using our medical expertise.

Each year, NYBC provides approximately one million blood products to nearly 200 hospitals in the Northeast. NYBC also provides a wide array of transfusion-related medical services. NYBC is also home to the world’s largest public cord blood bank, which provides stem cells for transplant in many countries, and a renowned research institute, which — among other milestones — developed the hepatitis B vaccine and innovative blood purification technology. Website: nybc.org