Summer 2021 with the Research Team
If you’ve been to the Napa Medical Research office lately you may have seen a new face in the research lab. University of Southern California senior, Ben Taubman is doing a summer internship with the Foundation, working with Ryan Dregalla, PhD and Yvette Uribe on a two-month long project studying platelet counts in platelet-rich-plasma (PRP).
The goal of the research project is to compare different methods of counting platelets, specifically using a hemocytometer versus a flow cytometer and a microscope.
The hypothesis for the study is that the commonly used method of automated platelet counting is not as accurate or consistent as other methods. Most platelet quantitation is done using an automated hemocytometer, (such as the Horiba ABX 60 used at the Bodor Clinic), a popular way to count platelets primarily because it counts the samples so quickly, increasing the turnaround time. The concern is that the results may be inconsistent.
Taubman has been running tests using the automated method, followed by using the flow cytometer, and then counting them manually under a fluorescence microscope to determine which method produces the most consistent results. The outcome will ultimately help guide the ways in which platelets are counted, how data is reported in the literature and help ensure a more accurate count of platelets for PRP injections.
So far, the flow cytometer seems to have much better accuracy because it relies on fluorescent markers to count the platelets based on both size and complexity, whereas the Horiba simply goes off the size to determine which particles are platelets. After data analysis, the NMRF research team plans to submit their findings for publication in a medical journal. This information will allow other investigators to follow best practices when quantifying platelets and improve the reliability of future clinical data.
Taubman says “This study is more satisfying than the research I’ve done in the past, because our findings could be utilized in the next few years. The best part of this experience is the unique perspective of having a research foundation next to a functional, private clinic. My background of academic research at universities is rooted in projects that are decades away from commercial use. The very nature of this study is so gratifying because I know what I am doing will lead to a real difference in a remarkably clever treatment. This project lays the groundwork for PRP—taking that next step into becoming a more widely-accepted approach to chronic pain.”
According to Yvette Uribe, NMRF research assistant, “NMRF is special in that our research is a combination of basic lab research and complex clinical applications that results in direct translational value for our patients and the scientific community.”
"The data collected by Ben has provided valuable insight into the diversity of the various means of platelet quantitation and illuminates key factors physicians should consider when using platelets therapeutically," says NMRF researcher, Ryan Dregalla, PhD. "Accurate measurement of platelets is essential in determining a biological 'dose' of PRP and is critical in understanding clinical outcomes.” Likewise, Taubman is grateful for the experience. “We’re on the leading edge of research here. It’s pretty fun stuff!”
Taubman is majoring in Biochemistry and plans to either go on to medical school or possibly pursue a PhD. He says this experience has provided him great insight as to how he will follow in NMRF’s footsteps in making his own lasting impact on clinical research.