Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is a life-saving treatment for children with a variety of diseases, including high-risk leukemia. During HSCT, the patient’s blood system (including any residual leukemia cells) is replaced by that of a healthy donor. Although HSCT is potentially curative, it remains a high-risk procedure with several potentially life-threatening complications. In particular, in some patients, the donor stem cells fail to engraft and reconstitute a new blood system. This leaves the patient susceptible to infections and bleeding complications, and has a high risk of mortality. Furthermore, since HSCT is a relatively new treatment strategy, the effects of the HSCT procedure on the longevity of the transplanted stem cells are still unknown.
Can we understand how the transplantation procedure affects the integrity of hematopoietic stem cells? Can we identify patients at risk of non-engraftment? And can we find methods to enhance stem cell engraftment, and, ultimately, the outcome of these patients? I investigate these topics by combining clinical data of HSCT patients with lab-based research of hematopoietic stem cells.