INTERVIEW | Cedric Ghevaert: “The recent epidemic has shown the fragility of the platelet supply to hospital because it requires human donation”

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Cedric Ghevaert Name Cedric Ghevaert
Job title Reader in Transfusion Medicine, Consultant Haematologist
Organization University of Cambridge, UK and NHS Blood and Transplant
Education MD PhD
Country UK

SilkFusion project is focused on solving large scale human platelet production. Why do we need to produce platelets, beyond donations?

The recent epidemic and past freak weather events have shown the fragility of the platelet supply to hospital because it requires human donation and is compounded by the short shelf life of platelets (5-7 days). In addition, about 6% of all platelet units are issued to patients who are HLA alloimmunised for whom we have to match donors. This represents a serious logistical challenge and financial burden. In addition, only about 1/3 of matched units are a perfect match which means the patients need more platelets, more often in order to reduce bleeding risks.

How do iPS cells will help to resolve this problem?

Deriving platelets from iPSCs would allow us to have a more resilient continuous supply line complementary to the sourcing of platelets from donors. In addition, iPSC can ge “genome edited”. Basically, we accurately modify their DNA so that their platelet progeny does not carry HLA antigen and therefore can be given to immunized patients and retain a normal life-time in the circulation of the patients’ post-transfusion. In addition, we can similarly modify iPSC DNA in order to make platelets that are ven better at clotting than donor platelets. These would be a great resource for patients acutely bleeding because of trauma or surgery.

 Silkfusion collaborates in the elaboration of the WHO Platelet Flow Cytometry Standard. Could you tell us about this collaboration?

Defining the end product from the production line is essential in order to assess whether the platelets we produce are bona fide platelets similar in quality and function to donor platelets. Establishing a standard would be highly relevant in order to assess platelets produced not only as part of silkfusion but also by other groups around the world who are addressing this issue. The WHO recognize the importance of such a standard and Silkfusion is liaising with the NIBSC in the UK who is looking to develop a freeze-dried standard that can be used in flow cytometry to assess platelets produce in vitro.

What is your role in SilkFusion project?

I am a Principal Investigator of a research group at the University of Cambridge Stem Cell Institute. My group speicializes in the differentiation of stem cells into megakaryocytes and in the genome editing of stem cells in order to make platelets that are immune silent or have additional therapeutic benefits compared to donor platelets.