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Blood Adv. 2019 Oct 22;3(20):2934-2948. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2018026575.

Generation and function of progenitor T cells from StemRegenin-1-expanded CD34+ human hematopoietic progenitor cells.

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Department of Immunology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Sunnybrook Research Institute, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada; and.
Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Department of Pediatrics, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.


Broader clinical application of umbilical cord blood (UCB), as a source of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs), is limited by low CD34+ and T-cell numbers, contributing to slow lymphohematopoietic recovery, infection, and relapse. Studies have evaluated the safety, feasibility, and expedited neutrophil recovery associated with the transplantation of CD34+ HSPCs from ex vivo expansion cultures using the aryl hydrocarbon receptor antagonist StemRegenin-1 (SR1). In a phase 1/2 study of 17 patients who received combined SR1-expanded and unexpanded UCB units, a considerable advantage for enhancing T-cell chimerism was not observed. We previously showed that progenitor T (proT) cells generated in vitro from HSPCs accelerated T-cell reconstitution and restored immunity after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). To expedite immune recovery, we hypothesized that SR1-expanded HSPCs together with proT cells could overcome the known T-cell immune deficiency that occurs post-HSCT. Here, we show that SR1-expanded UCB can induce >250-fold expansion of CD34+ HSPCs, which can generate large numbers of proT cells upon in vitro differentiation. When compared with nonexpanded naive proT cells, SR1 proT cells also showed effective thymus-seeding and peripheral T-cell functional capabilities in vivo despite having an altered phenotype. In a competitive transfer approach, both naive and SR1 proT cells showed comparable thymus-engrafting capacities. Single-cell RNA sequencing of peripheral CD3+ T cells from mice injected with either naive or SR1 proT cells revealed functional subsets of T cells with polyclonal T-cell receptor repertoires. Our findings support the use of SR1-expanded UCB grafts combined with proT-cell generation for decreasing T-cell immunodeficiency post-HSCT.

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