Phenotypic and functional stability of leukocytes from human peripheral blood samples: Considerations for the design of immunological studies

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Abstract

Background: Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) are extensively used for research of immune cell functions, identification of biomarkers and development of diagnostics and therapeutics for human diseases, among others. The assumption that "old blood samples" are not appropriate for isolation of PBMCs for functional assays has been a dogma in the scientific community. However, partial data on the impact of time after phlebotomy on the quality and stability of human PBMCs preparations impairs the design of studies in which time-controlled blood sampling is challenging such as field studies involving multiple sampling centers/sites. In this study, we evaluated the effect of time after phlebotomy over a 24 h time course, on the stability of human blood leukocytes used for immunological analyses. Blood samples from eight healthy adult volunteers were obtained and divided into four aliquots, each of which was left in gentle agitation at room temperature (24 °C) for 2 h (control), 7 h, 12 h and 24 h post phlebotomy. All samples at each time point were independently processed for quantification of mononuclear cell subpopulations, cellular viability, gene expression and cytokine secretion. Results: A 24 h time delay in blood sample processing did not affect the viability of PBMCs. However, a significantly lower frequency of CD3+ T cells (p < 0.05) and increased LPS-induced CXCL10 secretion were observed at 12 h post-phlebotomy. Alterations in TNFα, CCL8, CCR2 and CXCL10 gene expression were found as early as 7 h after blood sample procurement. Conclusions: These data reveal previously unrecognized early time-points for sample processing control, and provide an assay-specific time reference for the design of studies that involve immunological analyses of human blood samples.

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Navas, A., Giraldo-Parra, L., Prieto, M. D., Cabrera, J., & Gómez, M. A. (2019). Phenotypic and functional stability of leukocytes from human peripheral blood samples: Considerations for the design of immunological studies. BMC Immunology, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12865-019-0286-z

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