Anthony Nolan has today launched a new tissue typing method that could significantly improve stem cell transplant outcomes.
The blood cancer charity has started to use new technology that could revolutionise the field of tissue typing.
From today, saliva and blood samples will be 'typed' using the new system, which allows Anthony Nolan's scientists to obtain very high quality information about a patient and donor's tissue types, enabling them to make the best possible matches.
It is hoped this will lead to improved survival rates post-transplant and to a reduction in the number of patients experiencing post-transplant complications.
Professor Nigel Russell from the Centre for Clinical Haematology at Nottingham University Hospital said: "I am delighted that Anthony Nolan has launched its Third Generation Sequencing technology. This is an important milestone for all of us working in the field of stem cell transplantation and will enable us to find the best possible donors for our patients.
"I believe that typing donors and patients to the level made possible by TGS will give our patients the greatest chance of a successful outcome. It is a truly exciting development and I am very much looking forward to seeing future generations of transplant patients reap the benefits."
Anthony Nolan is working with new Pacific Biosciences' Single Molecule Real-Time (SMRT) DNA sequencing technology.
As well as improving outcomes, this technology should be faster than previous techniques, allowing the potential for more donors to be typed every year.
Typing more donors would increase the chance of every patient finding a well matched donor; a vital move as currently only 60 per cent of transplant patients receive the best possible match.
The technology - which is known as Third Generation Sequencing - also allows Anthony Nolan a further understanding of donor-patient compatibility in stem cell transplantation.
The new highly accurate reads of the patient and donor's HLA types will allow the charity's researchers to identify currently unknown factors which contribute to the success or failure of a stem cell transplant.
This information could prove to be invaluable for improving the success of future transplants.
Dr Katy Latham, Director of Laboratories at Anthony Nolan, said: "We are very excited about the potential benefits of this DNA sequencing technology in being able to provide us with unparalleled information about the tissue types of our patients and donors.
"The clinical impact of achieving this level of resolution HLA typing data is likely to be considerable, particularly because in blood stem cell and organ transplantation matching donors and recipients for their HLA is of utmost importance.
"This level of matching can reduce the risk of complications such as graft-versus-host disease and, consequently, the risk of mortality - potentially saving more lives."
Older methods of HLA typing have limitations because they can result in ambiguous tissue types.
The latest technology resolves this by generating exceptionally long DNA read lengths and by sequencing different tissues types in isolation.
Dr Latham said: "The implications of this technology could be enormous, allowing for accurate HLA typing in a single experiment and making redundant the need for multiple experiments and cross-referencing of results.
"This is significant as high resolution HLA typing has been shown to significantly improve outcomes when stem cells transplant recipients and their unrelated donors are matched very closely."
Anthony Nolan was the first stem cell registry in the world to invest in two Pacific Biosciences RS II DNA sequencers - technology, which enables SMRT DNA Sequencing of full-length HLA genes.
Today's launch of the technology was marked with a visit to the charity's laboratories by the Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP, who toured the laboratories and met scientists working on the project.
Henny Braund, Anthony Nolan's Chief Executive, said: "Just as Anthony Nolan was the world's first stem cell donor registry, it is also the first registry to invest in this pioneering new technology.
"As with everything we do, this investment was driven by a desire to save the lives of more blood cancer and blood disorder patients.
"We are delighted that George Freeman MP was able to join us to mark this important milestone for Anthony Nolan and to celebrate this new generation of lifesavers.
"We are glad to have the opportunity to highlight the important work that medical research charities like Anthony Nolan do to ensure that patients across the country benefit from cutting edge research."