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RNA and Nanotechnology Enable Wider Accessibility to Stem Cell Transplantation

Project description

Expanding umbilical cord blood stem cells for transplantation

Umbilical cord blood is collected at the time of birth and constitutes an alternative source of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). However, the number of umbilical cord blood HSCs is insufficient for clinical transplantation, impeding clinical application. Funded by the European Research Council, the RNable project is investigating the possibility of expanding these cells in vitro prior to transplantation. Researchers aim to deliver small RNAs to HSCs using a non-toxic nanotechnology-based methodology that maintains HSC function and viability. The project has the potential to improve HSC transplantation procedures, helping thousands of people who cannot find eligible donors.


Every year, more than 50 000 patients receive blood stem cell transplantation as a curative treatment for diseases such as leukemia, immune deficiencies, and sickle cell anemia. For a successful transplantation, a matching donor who is willing to donate blood stem cells needs to be found. Worldwide, around 30% patients in need of a transplantation cannot find a suitable donor. Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is an easily obtainable alternative source of blood stem cells, but unfortunately most UCB units do not contain enough stem cells for a successful transplantation, which is why UCB is currently only rarely used in the clinic. Within the ERC project UNEXPECTED, we have identified several small RNA biomolecules that can be used to expand engraftable blood stem cells efficiently. However, it is difficult to safely deliver molecules to blood stem cells, and currently used methods are highly toxic. We recently applied cutting edge nanotechnology to solve this long-standing problem in stem cell biology. We established nanostraws as an efficient and gentle alternative delivery method with which both cell function and viability are fully maintained. Our method that allows efficient non-toxic delivery of blood stem cell-expanding RNAs will allow us to greatly increase the number of UCB units that can be used for transplantations. Our approach could provide a life-saving treatment option for the thousands of patients yearly with malignant or inherited diseases that currently are ineligible for a stem cell transplantation procedure.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
Paradisgatan 5c
22100 Lund

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Södra Sverige Sydsverige Skåne län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (1)