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February 2008 Issue

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Hoxworth Set to Celebrate 70 Years of Service

By Katie Pence
Published February 2008

Blood banking has come a long way from minimal testing and whole-blood storage in glass bottles.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Hoxworth Blood Center, the only blood center in the Greater Cincinnati area that collects, tests, processes and distributes blood and blood components to the region’s 29 hospitals and medical centers.

According to Hoxworth officials, a lot has changed in the last 70 years.

“There’s no comparison to
the transformation that has occurred—even since I began here in 1971,” laughs Susan Wilkinson, associate director of the Hoxworth Blood Center.

Wilkinson says she remembers when blood centers were only testing donated blood for syphilis and hepatitis B surface antigen, a protein produced by the virus.

“Now, we test for all sorts of infectious diseases,” she says, adding that the long list includes HIV, hepatitis C and, most recently, chagas disease, a tropical parasitic infection. “The blood is the safest it’s ever been.”

Besides operating in a highly regulated environment—including extensive questioning of donors—Hoxworth officials have greatly expanded research, cell therapy and transplantation immunology initiatives at the center.

Ronald Sacher, MD, director of Hoxworth Blood Center and professor medicine and pathology, says that in only seven years, he has seen tremendous growth.

“I began at Hoxworth in 2000 and have seen our research activities as well as our donation numbers rise to an incredible degree,” he says.

From 2000, blood donation units have risen from 76,000 to 95,000 per year, says Sacher. He adds that the center received $2 million to fund clinical and basic research last year.

“There are now clinical trials being conducted to enhance the process of blood storage,” he says. “There is also work being done alongside Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center that is looking at cellular therapy for patients with cancer using non-embryonic stem cells.”

Wilkinson adds that the center has a program actively dedicated to treating certain disease states, for example, remedies for people who have high cholesterol and are unresponsive to statins.

“We will soon introduce technology to treat patients with chronic graft-versus-host disease which occurs when immune cells from donated bone marrow or cord blood attack the body of a transplant recipient,” she says.

Both Wilkinson and Sacher say that double red cell apheresis technology, involving a machine that separates red blood cells from other blood components and returns the remaining components to the donor, have also advanced work at Hoxworth.

This will be the sixth year the double red machines have been used at the center.

“They have improved our operations greatly and have helped to increase our numbers,” says Sacher, noting that this technology allows the collection of two units of red cells at the same time.

“Hoxworth has become a leader not only locally but nationally and internationally,” he continues. “We hope to continue expanding our interactions with outside companies and medical experts and continually increase our donations as well as broaden our research capabilities for the next 70 years and beyond.”

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