Background: Clinical trials of novel therapies for the treatment of ulcerative colitis (UC) may benefit from immune cell profiling, however implementation of this methodology is limited in the multicenter trial setting by necessity of timely (within 6 to 8 h) isolation and processing of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from whole blood samples. Becton Dickinson Vacutainer CPT™ Cell Preparation Tubes (CPT™) limit required processing prior to shipping to a central lab to an initial centrifugation step within 24 h of sample collection. As shipping may delay final processing beyond 24 h, we analyzed cell viability and T cell composition in whole blood stored in CPT™ to determine if their use may accommodate processing delays typical for multicenter clinical trials.
Methods: Whole blood samples from 3 patients with UC were collected in CPT™ (15 tubes/patient) and PBMC were processed at various timepoints (24-96 h). Cell viability and T cell composition (26 types) were evaluated by flow cytometry. Variability between technical and biological replicates was evaluated in the context of cell-type abundance, delayed processing time, and data normalization.
Results: Total cell viability was <50% when processing was delayed to 48 h after collection and was further reduced at later processing timepoints. The effect of delayed processing on cell abundance varied widely across cell types, with CD4+, CD8+, naïve effector CD8+, and Tcm CD4 + T cells displaying the least variability in abundance with delayed processing. Normalization of cell counts to cell types other than total T cells corrected for the effect of delayed processing for several cell types, particularly Th17.
Conclusions: Based on these data, processing of PBMC in CPT™ should ideally be performed within 48 h. Delayed processing of PBMC in CPT™ may be considered for cell types that are robust to these conditions. Normalization of cell abundance to different parental cell-types may reduce variability in quantitation and should be used in conjunction with the expected effect size to meet the experimental goals of a multicenter clinical trial.