HLA Matched Platelets
Human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, is expressed in almost every cell of our bodies. HLA determines the physical characteristics of each individual person – depending on the chains of proteins, or “markers”, and how they are sequenced. The science of HLA matching of platelets is used for pairing a donor with a transplant recipient.
We talked with Stan Hance, MT (ASCP), Platelet Services Coordinator for Carter BloodCare, who is known as “Stan the Platelet Man” in the blood banking industry, to understand why HLA matched platelets are so important for optimizing the transplant process.
“HLA defines ‘self’,” says Stan Hance
“Leukemia patients and those who are facing bone marrow or solid organ transplant are at great risk of rejecting the much-needed donor platelets,” says Stan. “When something enters our body that does not belong, it triggers the immune system to create antibodies for getting rid of those ‘foreign invaders’. In the situation of a transplant recipient, we want to minimize the potential for their body to reject the donation, and allow the patient to recover successfully.”
He explains a number of transplant patients are struggling to keep their platelet levels up when going through chemotherapy or the transplant process. “While the chemo is effective in attacking the tumor,” Stan says, “it is destructive to platelets.” This is when HLA matched platelets offer an effective treatment option.
“In the treatment of these medical conditions, we pay special attention to what the HLA response is going to be. From our point of view, we look at two haplotypes and their antigens to find the best match.”
Partnering to Serve as an Extension of Transplant Teams
Processing platelets is a delicate, sophisticated task. This precious resource must be stored in a special bag to maintain their pH, at room temperature and circulated frequently with constant agitation. Platelets are very susceptible to contamination and are only viable for five days – compared to red blood cells which remain viable up to six weeks.
Extensive Donor Database Helps Patients Across the U.S.
At 20,000 and counting, Carter BloodCare currently maintains one of the largest databases of HLA typed platelet donors in the United States. The local Dallas and Fort Worth medical centers rely on this database to find a match for their transplant patients.
In addition, Stan’s team routinely serves the HLA matching needs for hospitals beyond the DFW area. Indeed, about one-third of HLA matched platelet requests are delivered outside of North Texas and the surrounding states.
Thank The Donor Messages are a Source of Encouragement
Stan and his team work tirelessly each day researching HLA matched platelets for transplant recipients. Most of the time they never know how the person’s story begins or how it’s going at the moment. And, yet, sometimes they do and it is…to say the least…a source of encouragement to learn how their work played a role in the patient’s recovery.
“One day, I received a call from a patient’s adult daughter,” Stan recalls. “She reached out to me because she noticed one donation of HLA matched platelets was O+ and one was O- and she was curious if Carter BloodCare had more than one donor for her mom’s rare condition. I thought to myself and then said, “We actually have several donors that are HLA matches in our database and are always testing to find more.”
The woman’s mom participated in the Thank the Donor program while receiving a transfusion and was able to send a (privacy-protected) message of appreciation to both of her donors. Carter BloodCare implemented Thank the Donor in 2019, which allows donors to receive privacy-protected messages from their transfusion recipient.
Stan measures his team’s success as “We find a match for the patient! It really is that simple.” He treasures the moments he gets to hear about patient success stories.
When asked if he had one word to describe his job: Meaningful