Aiding Blood Recovery, Blood Replacement

Jul. 17, 2013

blood bagDid you know that it takes two trillion red cells to make a single unit of blood?

Two ongoing problems in medicine are how to make new blood efficiently and at the appropriate scale, and how to protect blood from life-threatening assault. James Palis, M.D., and colleagues have recently received more than $2.5 million in funding to investigate each of these critical aspects of blood recovery and blood replacement.

The first project involves collaboration with Laura Calvi, M.D. They have worked together within the URMC’s Center for Medical Countermeasures Against Radiation and are now investigating a novel therapy – prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) – to regenerate blood stem cells after exposure to the harmful effects of radiation, which can damage and even destroy the blood system. Spurred by the government’s desire to make new therapies available for the general public in the context of a nuclear bioterrorist attack, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has awarded more than $2 million to support this five-year project.

The second project involves a pilot grant from the CTSI incubator program with colleagues Michael Bulger, Ph.D., and Richard Waugh, Ph.D. These researchers are working together on ways to regenerate blood outside of the body. A critical challenge is the sheer number of cells needed – that’s where the eye-popping two trillion comes into play. In order to be able to generate this number, they are developing a system to expand the number of cells indefinitely and also grow them more efficiently. Persistent bottlenecks in donated blood supplies and a growing demand for blood transfusions, is fueling this active area of science, Palis said.

The CTSI incubator funding program is geared toward collaborating UR investigators who have individual projects linked by a scientific or clinical theme. Up to $125,00 per year for two years is available. The goal is to prepare the research team to compete for a program-project or center grant.