Post-thaw viability of cryopreserved peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) does not guarantee functional activity: important implications for quality assurance of stem cell transplant programmes.


Standard quality assurance (QA) of cryopreserved peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) uses post-thaw viable CD34(+) cell counts. In 2013, concerns arose at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) about 8 patients with delayed engraftment following myeloablative chemotherapy with cryopreserved cell rescue, despite adequate post-thaw viable cell counts in all cases. Root cause analysis was undertaken; investigations suggested the freeze process itself was a contributing factor to suboptimal engraftment. Experiments were undertaken in which a single PBSC product was divided into three and cryopreserved in parallel using a control-rate freezer (CRF) or passive freezing method (-80°C freezer) at GOSH, or the same passive freezing at another laboratory. Viable CD34(+) counts were equivalent and adequate in each. Granulocyte-monocyte colony-forming unit assays demonstrated colonies from the products cryopreserved using passive freezing (both laboratories), but no colonies from products cryopreserved using the CRF. The CRF was shown to be operating within manufacturer's specifications with freeze-profile within acceptable limits. This experience has important implications for quality assurance for all transplant programmes, particularly those using cryopreserved products. The failure of post-thaw viable CD34(+) counts, the most widely used routine QA test available, to ensure PBSC function is of great concern and should prompt reassessment of protocols and QA procedures

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UCL Discovery

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This paper was published in UCL Discovery.

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