Flow cytometry assessment of apoptotic CD34+ cells by annexin V labeling may improve prediction of cord blood potency for engraftment

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Nonviable CD34+ cells are commonly assessed by standard flow cytometry using the nuclear stain 7-aminoactinomycin D (7AAD). 7AAD, however, only detects necrotic and late apoptotic cells, not earlier apoptosis, which engraft poorly in animal models of cord blood (cord) transplantation. The standard method, therefore, may overestimate engraftment potency of cord units under certain conditions.


To detect apoptotic events, costaining with 7AAD and annexin V (AnnV), in parallel with the quantitative, standard enumeration, was used. Cord units were assessed before and after cryopreservation using both staining methods and colony-forming units (CFU) to determine if graft potency can be predicted using a “functional flow cytometry” approach.


Significant numbers of CD34+ AnnV+ events were found within the 7AAD-gated population. Nonapoptotic cell dose (CD34+ AnnV−) correlated well with CFUs in both a small-scale (n = 10) and a large-scale banking study (n = 107). Finally, following samples postthaw with time showed increasing numbers of apoptotic CD34+ cells and consequently the AnnV assessed dose was better at predicting the CFU compared with just the standard enumeration.


Defining the apoptotic population of CD34+ cells improved the prediction of CFU, making this method a rapid test of potency for assessment of cord units for clinical use.

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