Banking on human embryonic stem cells: estimating the number of donor cell lines needed for HLA matching

Lancet. 2005 Dec 10;366(9502):2019-25. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67813-0.


Background: Human embryonic stem (hES) cells are a promising source for transplantation to replace diseased or damaged tissue, but their differentiated progeny express human leucocyte antigens (HLAs) that will probably cause graft rejection. The creation of a bank of HLA-typed hES cells, from which a best match could be selected, would help reduce the likelihood of graft rejection. We investigated how many hES cell lines would be needed to make matching possible in most cases.

Methods: The number of hES cell lines needed to achieve varying degrees of HLA match was estimated by use of, as a surrogate for hES-cell donor embryos, blood group and HLA types on a series of 10,000 consecutive UK cadaveric organ donors. The degree of blood group compatibility and HLA matching for a recipient population consisting of 6577 patients registered on the UK kidney transplant waiting list was determined, assuming all donor hES cell lines could provide a transplant for an unlimited number of recipients.

Findings: A bank of 150 consecutive donors provided a full match at HLA-A, HLA-B, and HLA-DR for a minority of recipients (<20%); a beneficial match (defined as one HLA-A or one HLA-B mismatch only) or better for 37.9% (range 27.9-47.5); and an HLA-DR match or better for 84.9% (77.5-90.0). Extending the number of donors beyond 150 conferred only a very gradual incremental benefit with respect to HLA matching. A panel of only ten donors homozygous for common HLA types selected from 10,000 donors provided a complete HLA-A, HLA-B and HLA-DR match for 37.7% of recipients, and a beneficial match for 67.4%.

Interpretation: Approximately 150 consecutive blood group compatible donors, 100 consecutive blood group O donors, or ten highly selected homozygous donors could provide the maximum practical benefit for HLA matching. The findings from these simulations have practical, political, and ethical implications for the establishment of hES-cell banks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Blood Donors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Blood Grouping and Crossmatching / statistics & numerical data*
  • Histocompatibility*
  • Humans
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stem Cells / classification*