CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Dec. 3, 1999
UI participates in multi-center study testing new platelet 'sterilizing'
IOWA CITY, Iowa The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is participating
in a multi-center trial testing the efficacy and safety of a new way to cleanse
infectious organisms from donated platelets before the blood product is administered
The UI department of pathology has received a one-and-half-year grant from
health care companies Baxter and Cerus for the study titled "Determination
of the therapeutic efficacy and safety of photochemically treated platelets
in thrombocytopenic patients."
Thrombocytopenia is a condition characterized by low blood platelet counts.
Platelets are the clotting particles in blood.
The new photochemical strategy attempts to sterilize donated platelets against
bacteria and viruses, which may be present in blood products. The goal of
the study is to establish that the platelets are not damaged from the sterilization
process. Preliminary data suggest that the process does not harm the platelets.
"This is an extremely important study," said Ronald Strauss, M.D.,
UI professor of pathology and pediatrics and the trial's principal investigator
for the UI site. "If this works effectively, it really has the potential
to eliminate the transmission of donor infections to patients. It has the
potential to really reach the magical zero risk blood supply."
The UI researchers will collect platelets for transfusion in the UI Hospitals
and Clinics' Blood Center and treat the blood product with a drug called psoralen,
a chemical that binds to the nucleic acid of pathogens. The researchers will
then activate the psoralen with ultraviolet light rendering the bacteria and
viruses unable to replicate or grow.
"The use of psoralen-type compounds to sterilize certain blood components
has been known for several years, but this is a newer form that may increase
its effectiveness and its safety," said Strauss. "In preliminary
laboratory studies, it seems likely that this special treatment may possibly
eliminate donor infections being transmitted to patients."
Although this specific strategy cannot be applied to red blood cell products
because the ultraviolet light will not penetrate red blood cells, other strategies
have been developed for those cells, Strauss noted.
The current study at the UI Hospitals and Clinics involves the collaboration
of the departments of pathology and internal medicine. Roger Gingrich, M.D.,
Ph.D., UI professor of internal medicine and director of the Adult Bone Marrow
Transplant Program at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, will serve as co-investigator.
Over the next year and a half, the UI researchers hope to enroll between
60 and 70 patients. Half the subjects will receive platelets treated photochemically.
The other participants will receive untreated platelets. The remainder of
the treatment will be identical for all patients enrolled in the study.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College
of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical
education and research programs and services they provide.