Get­ting to the mar­row

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS -

SOUTH Perth res­i­dent and Royal Perth Hospital re­searcher Melita Cir­illo is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the po­ten­tial of us­ing adult stem cells to treat one of the most com­mon blood disor­ders in the elderly.

Myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome (MDS) is a dis­or­der of the bone mar­row that can progress to leukaemia in up to a quar­ter of cases.

Dr Cir­illo said re­search had shown MDS pa­tients could ben­e­fit from var­i­ous im­mune ther­a­pies but none had been used rou­tinely due to side-ef­fects, in­clud­ing in­creased risk of in­fec­tion.

“We’re in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Mes­enchy­mal Stro­mal Cells (MSCs) – adult stem cells that, while not an im­mune ther­apy as such, have been found to mod­u­late the im­mune sys­tem – might be a safer alternative,” she said.

She de­scribed MSCs as ver­sa­tile cells with spe­cial prop­er­ties in­clud­ing be­ing uni­ver­sal donor cells, mean­ing they could be taken from any­one and given to any­one else with­out the need for tis­sue match­ing that homed on sites of in­flam­ma­tion.

MSCs be­ing in­fused into par­tic­i­pants in Dr Cir­illo’s project are ob­tained from the bone mar­row of healthy donors and cul­ture-ex­panded in RPH’s cell and tis­sue ther­a­pies man­u­fac­tur­ing unit, Cell and Tis­sue Ther­a­pies WA.

Dr Cir­illo said this pre­lim­i­nary “phase one” study was re­cruit­ing pa­tients who had been iden­ti­fied as be­ing in the early stages of MDS.

If the analysis of this ini­tial phase showed pos­i­tive re­sults, then a larger phase two study would be un­der­taken.

While MDS is not cur­able for most pa­tients, blood trans­fu­sions and treat­ment for in­fec­tion are the most com­mon of the cur­rently avail­able ther­a­pies for pa­tients with early MDS.

Dr Cir­illo is among seven re­searchers awarded fel­low­ships in the in­au­gu­ral round of Regis­trar Re­search Fel­low­ships.

She said the ul­ti­mate goal of the re­search team was to save lives by find­ing a sim­ple and ef­fec­tive treat­ment that could slow the pro­gres­sion of MDS and im­prove pa­tients’ quality of life by lim­it­ing hospital vis­its and trans­fu­sions.

Dr Melita Cir­illo is among seven re­searchers awarded regis­trar re­search fel­low­ships.

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