Two biopharmaceutical and technology companies and the American Red Cross (ARC) have partnered to support a study of a technique for effectively removing blood-borne transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) from whole blood. ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. and ARC joined in this endeavor in April, 2002 to form Pathogen Removal and Diagnostic Technologies Inc. (PRDT). MacoPharma joins PRDT as cosponsors of the 18-month study that seeks to galvanize the technologies and expertise of all three entities.
For the study, 100 hamsters were injected with scrapie (a TSE found in animals) infected whole blood that had been previously filtered through a prion-removal device augmented by patented selective molecular compound technology known as ligand. Prions are the proteins associated with TSE. Follow-up tests found no detectable TSE infectivity or apparent signs of the disease. The principal researcher for the study is Luisa Gregori, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.
TSEs are a group of degenerative brain disorders caused by abnormal, misshapen versions of prion proteins. TSEs do occur in both animals and humans. The most well-known human TSE is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Nearly 10 years ago a new form of this disease called variant CJD (vCJD) emerged. Subsequent research found that vCJD could be transmitted to humans through the consumption of contaminated beef from cattle suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy or “mad cow disease.” Another TSE found in animals is scrapie, the type injected into the hamsters for the study. “This is the first time that removal of the native TSE blood-borne infectivity has been conclusively demonstrated. Indeed, no infections have been observed in the animals treated with PRDT resin,” said Dr. Gregori. Results of the study, which is reportedly 92% complete, were presented in a special forum at the annual meeting of the American Association of Blood Banks in October, 2005.
Mad cow disease in animals and vCJD in humans result in very serious neurological symptoms and death. There is currently no treatment for vCJD. If a person was to become infected with vCJD, there exists a theoretical possibility of them donating blood and bringing the disease into the U.S. blood supply.
Source: Blood Weekly, November 17, 2005