Arrow logo, text reads arrow the bone marrow transplant foundation

A Murdoch Children’s Research Institute early-career researcher has been awarded a scholarship for her stem cell research project aiming to help patients with blood cancers or bone marrow failure.  
Ritika Saxena (pictured below) received the Arrow Bone Marrow Transplant Foundation PhD Scholarship, funded by the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (HCC).

Diseases of the blood can be due to 'overproduction' of blood cells, leading to blood cancers such as leukaemia, or 'underproduction' of blood, leading to bone marrow failure.

Ritika SaxenaMs Saxena’s research focuses on understanding the formation of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) –  rare cells that have self‐renewal capacity and the ability to regenerate all the different cell types that comprise the blood‐forming system.

“Donor HSCs, ideally from matched siblings, are used in bone marrow transplants to treat patients with blood cancers or bone marrow failure,” she said. However, for patients who do not have a perfectly matched donor, this treatment may not be available.”

Ms Saxena will study how these cells can be made in the lab from a patient’s own cells to enable future scientists to generate HSCs for those who lack a perfectly matched donor.  She is a part of the Blood Disease and Blood Development labs, under the supervision of Professor Andrew ElefantyDr Elizabeth Ng and Professor Ed Stanley.

After losing her grandmother to multiple myeloma (a cancer of plasma cells) almost a decade ago, Ms Saxena said she hoped her research would help other families affected by cancer.