Meet Dr. Nicolas Pineault, a development scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation. Trained in stem cell biology at the Terry Fox Laboratory in Vancouver, Dr. Pineault worked for many years with Héma-Québec researching stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow cells and platelets. He joined Canadian Blood Services in March 2012 and works in the labs at our head office in Ottawa.

Dr. Pineault and his team are currently working on two major investigations. One project focuses on new ways to improve blood stem cell (also called hematopoietic stem cell) transplants in patients. Blood stem cell transplants are used to treat over 80 diseases and disorders, including many cancers and inherited immune system and metabolic disorders.

“These days, there is much excitement over stem cell research in the context of regenerative medicine because it has created new hope for the treatment of many diseases,” says Dr. Pineault. “Rather than treating conditions with drugs that only alleviate symptoms, advances in so-called ‘cellular therapy’ can fix underlying problems at their source, providing a long-term solution that improves quality of life for patients.”

Dr. Pineault and his team are working on a cellular therapy to improve engraftment (the process through which new blood-forming cells start to develop in the patient) following cord blood stem cell transplantation. The idea is to speed up normal blood cell production by transplanting a large number of stem cells from cord blood and progenitor cells (cells that are slightly more mature) in a patient at the same time.

“We are trying to create larger numbers of cells through a cellular engineering approach where we place the cord blood cells in a culture to expand them before we transplant them in the patient,” explains Dr. Pineault. The hope is that this approach could help patients recover faster and reduce the need for further interventions.

The second project focuses on developing procedures and improving standards related to the collection of cord blood units for Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank. Through the cord blood bank, we collect cord blood units to provide a national source of stem cells for all patients in need. Our Cord Blood for Research program supports promising research into new therapies to improve the outlook for patients, families and the health-care system.

Dr. Pineault and his team conduct tests using the same equipment we use in our cord blood processing facilities. This way his research team can perform realistic studies, such as testing and comparing processes related to the thawing of cord blood units. This work will help determine the ideal procedures for transplant centres to follow when preparing to transplant stem cells from cord blood in a patient.

Did you know?

Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood for Research program supports research that promotes advances in the fields of transfusion, cellular therapies and transplantation medicine in Canada. When cord blood can’t be used for treatment, it can be put to important use in biomedical research and help to make lifesaving medical discoveries.

Find out more about how we use cord blood units and other products for research.

Photography by Pat Walton