Emory Report
August 25, 2008
Volume 61, Number 1



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August 25, 2008
Grant to fuel research for safer transfusions

By Quinn Eastman

For vulnerable patients like premature babies or adults with leukemia, blood cell transfusions can involve the risk of infections and other complications. A five-year, $8 million National Institutes of Health grant to the Emory Center for Transfusion and Cellular Therapies will support efforts to reduce those risks.

The grant will fund a clinical trial covering the greater Atlanta area that tests the best ways to protect low birth weight infants from cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common transfusion-related infection. It will also support study of new strategies for rebuilding the immune systems of bone marrow transplant recipients.

“The goal of these projects is to make transfusion and bone marrow transplant recipients safer,” says pathologist and principal investigator Christopher Hillyer. “Although they are distinct projects, each one builds on the knowledge generated by the other.”

A majority of adults have CMV in their bodies, but it doesn’t make them sick. Low birth weight infants have incomplete immune systems and are vulnerable to CMV infection, which can lead to liver or lung damage, permanent disability or even death, Hillyer says.