Healthcare science staff in this field may be involved in tissue banking – the collection, processing, harvesting, storage and issuing of different types of tissue to be used to treat patients. For example, skin, bone marrow, eye corneas, heart valves and stem cells. Staff ensure tissues are handled safely and the correct tissue is issued to patients.
Typical activities include:
- carrying out complex analyses on patient and donor specimens
- assuring the quality of clinical investigations
- auditing the diagnostic and clinical use and performance of investigations
- developing new and existing tests often requiring considerable manual expertise
Staff also provide genetic testing for a number of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and immune-related genes to support disease diagnosis and management. The immune system uses HLA markers to identify which cells belong in an individual’s body and which do not. The healthcare scientists will be involved in HLA typing patients and donors, assessing the closeness of the match and thus helping to select the most appropriate donor for a particular patient.
Mismatching can result in immune damage to the patient in haemopoietic stem transplantation, or rejection in organ transplantation. In the case of organ transplantation, the laboratory also performs HLA antibody screening and cross matching to ensure that there are no antibodies in the recipient which could reject the transplant. A laboratory may keep registers of potential recipients of organ transplants and volunteer haemopoietic stem cell (both bone marrow and cord blood) donors.