The role of bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells in chronic ITP

In 2012 Dr Roberto Stasi, Consultant Haematologist, St George's Healthcare NHS Trust, received £18,500 from The ITP Support Association for a two-year study into the role of a particular cell in the bone marrow: mesenchymal stromal cells. Dr Stasi explained that these cells will be separated from the bone marrow of people with chronic ITP. Little is known about the function of these cells in ITP but they have been shown to be abnormal in other autoimmune disorders. The aim is to improve understanding of the causes of chronic ITP and to possibly find a new treatment i.e. healthy mesenchymal stromal cells.


November 2013 Update by Dr Ruth Pettengell and Dr Edita Hamzic.

Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) have been shown to be abnormal in a number of autoimmune disorders, however, little is known about these cells in ITP patients. St George’s Hospital received full ethical approval in July 2013 to compare MSC from individuals with ITP to compare directly with healthy donors. The Hammersmith Hospital in London is currently in the process of being approved as an additional research site for the study and depending on trial recruitment numbers we will seek additional research sites.

Initial work has focused on growing MSC from ITP and donor bone marrow in the laboratory and comparing the growth characteristics and stem cell properties of these cells. MSC from 2 of 3 healthy donors and 1 of 2 ITP bone marrows grew fully in the laboratory dishes showing densely packed spindle shaped cells (Figure 1). By microscopy no obvious differences in the growth ability between patient and healthy donor MSC were observed and using flow cytometry to confirm their stem cell nature there were no clear differences in the pattern seen in individuals with ITP and healthy donors.

We are now repeating these studies on a larger sample size and testing the ability of the MSC from ITP and healthy donors to support platelet production.

Figure 1. MSC growing in a laboratory dish.

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 Sadly Dr Stasi died on 28 January 2014.