Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Stem Cell Research
Curt Civin, King Fahd Professor of Oncology and Pediatrics at
Medical School in 1974, and he became a Johns Hopkins faculty member just
a short time later, in 1979. He began conducting research in blood and immune
system development and pursued interests in pediatric oncology and bone marrow
transplantation as well.
By 1984, Civin had developed the CD34 monoclonal antibody, which made it possible
for the first time to identify, isolate and collect hematopoietic stem cells,
the immature cells in the human body that grow into mature blood, marrow and
immune cells. The antibody is able to selectively capture these stem cells,
which are usually located in bone marrow. Civin's discovery helped to speed
up recovery time for cancer patients following high-dosage chemotherapy. Before
CD34, physicians would harvest the patient's bone marrow before chemotherapy
and then return it to the body. However, the transplanted bone marrow could
still contain cancerous cells, which could then spread to the rest of the body.
The cancer therapies also damage and often destroy blood cells and the immune
system, leaving patients vulnerable to infections and other life-threatening
With CD34, a patient's healthy stem cells can be harvested from the marrow
and after chemotherapy returned to the body, where they migrate to the marrow
and start producing new blood cells, renewing the body's blood and immune systems.
Civin's discovery was patented and received Food
and Drug Administration approval in 1996.
Civin also invented a process that could purify cells on a large scale, isolating
the rarer, more formative stem cells while weeding out the more numerous, but
less desirable, mature cells. Clinical trials of the selection process began
in 1990, and since that time, more than 10,000 patients have received transplants
of stem cells purified using Civin's monoclonal antibodies. His process also
is useful in targeting stem cells for gene therapy. Additionally, being able
to identify adult blood stem cells paves the way for researchers around the
world to study diseases of the blood in new ways, which could help to enable
future development of any number of curing therapies.
Civin has nine U.S. patents for biomedical inventions related to his stem
cell research. Johns Hopkins has licensed his invention to Becton
Dickinson Corp., which has sublicensed it to several other companies, including
Baxter Healthcare Corp. and Nexell
Therapeutics. One of Nexell's machines, the Isolex 300i Cell Selection System,
is based on Civin's patents. Civin serves on the board of five medical journals
and has published more than 135 articles.