Aim: To measure circulating CD34+ cell levels in premature neonates and to correlate the initial CD34+ counts with measures of pulmonary function and neonatal morbidity.
Methods: CD34+ cell counts were measured in the peripheral blood of preterm neonates (gestational ages 24-32 weeks) ventilated for respiratory disease at <48 h of life, and at the start of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of life. Data pertaining to neonatal demographics and short-term outcomes were collected. Pulmonary function tests were performed to coincide with CD34+ sampling.
Results: Thirty preterm neonates with median gestational age of 24 weeks and birth weight of 641 g were analysed. A mean of 99.4 CD34+ cells per microliter was observed in the 1st week of life with a decline to 54.4 cells per microliter by the 4th week. An inverse correlation between initial CD34+ count and gestational age (p=0.01) was observed. No significant correlations were observed with measures of pulmonary function or neonatal morbidities.
Conclusions: Extremely premature neonates have remarkably high levels of CD34+ cells in their peripheral blood at birth. Umbilical cord blood from this population may potentially provide an abundant source of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells for therapeutic purposes.