DAYTON — A small but curious group of senior biotech students from Xenia High School got an up-close look at the blood testing, research and ground-breaking human cellular processing work going on at Community Blood Center headquarters in downtown Dayton on Thursday.
It was a return visit for their teacher Molly Wavra, biotechnology instructor for XHS and the Greene County Career Center. She brought a group of seven seniors with interest in health research careers last year and came with a select group of four seniors this year. The group included Claudia Martin, Noah Hovan, Alanta George and Jordan Jones.
“It’s an exciting field because of the way things change dramatically,” said Connie Piekenbrock, Human Leukocyte Antibodies & Antigens Lab record review specialist. “Everything has changed since I began and I have been at the blood center for 34 years. You think you are doing what is considered hi-tech, but there’s always a new hi-tech way that comes along.”
HLA Lab Supervisor Tami Ritz introduced the students to the cutting-edge research and development going on in CBC’s Hospital and Laboratory Services. She delivered a slide and video presentation of the Human Vascular Cell Processing program at CBC. The students learned how smooth muscle cells are taken from a donor’s descending thoracic aorta specimen. The cells are carefully plated, incubated and nourished and closely monitored for growth. They are eventually counted, collected, processed and finally frozen for delivery to a partner agency.
At this next stage the cells will be placed on a scaffold and grown further. The final product will be a de-cellularized vessel that can be used for applications such as dialysis fistulas and bypass surgeries. It is of human origin, but is free of any antigens that might present the risk of rejection by the body of the recipient. As of now, it provides a better alternative to swine vessels used for dialysis patients. In time, the hope is produce larger vessels for bypass surgery.
Ritz then led the students on a tour of the cell processing lab to see where many of the steps in human vascular cell processing take place. They also visited the HLA Lab, the Stem Cell Lab and the Molecular Lab.
Piekenbrock gave a tour of the Donor Testing Lab. They learned how all blood donations collected at CBC Donor Centers and mobile blood drives ultimately arrive at the testing lab at the end of the day, where technicians work through the night performing precise testing for blood type and attributes and various transmissible disease agents, including HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, and Chagas disease.