Join Registry Give Now
Join Registry Give Now

Miami Beach man donated white blood cells to help advance research into new treatments

Apr 18, 2024 by Gift of Life Donor Story

The field of cellular therapy and immunotherapy is undergoing incredible advances, and Gift of Life’s registry members may find themselves being invited to donate cells for research projects. These projects are being conducted by universities, biotechnology, immunology, and major pharmaceutical firms, which are seeking to develop treatments and cures for many diseases, including blood cancer, solid tumors, Parkinson’s disease, and many more conditions.

With Gift of Life’s large pool of donors whose tissue type is already known, some donors will now have the chance to help in this research. 

Perre-Jacques is one of those donors.  He joined the registry at the 2021 One Huge Night Miami Gala, after seeing the emotional introduction of a blood stem cell donor to the young man whose life she had saved. 

“Because I am privileged to be in good health, I decided to join the registry,” said Pierre-Jacques. 

When he was invited to donate mononuclear cells for research in October 2023, he immediately agreed.  Mononuclear cells are a mix of various types of stem cells found in the marrow and circulating blood, including lymphocytes, monocytes, and natural killer (NK) cells.  These cells give researchers excellent data about how the human immune system responds to pathogens, toxins, and cancers, so they offer the chance of developing new treatments that go beyond the need for a perfect donor match. Success in these areas of research could help thousands of patients who do not currently have other treatment options.

“My family and friends were pleasantly surprised and interested that I was invited to do this research donation,” said Pierre-Jacques.  “But many of them live overseas, so they were not able to join me that day. Since I am self-employed, it was easy to arrange the time to make my donation.” 

Pierre-Jacques  lives in Miami, so it was a quick ride to Boca Raton to Gift of Life’s collection center, and since the research request was for mononuclear cells, he did not need Neupogen shots in advance. 

“Gift of Life sent a car for me, and I was the first to arrive in the morning, so I was the first one on the apheresis machine,” he said. “I listened to a podcast, and tried to do some work on my phone, but it’s probably best to just relax.” 

Pierre-Jacques also said that the staff members at the collection center were great, and he received lots of attention and care from them.

“I have donated in similar ways in the past, and will continue doing so,” he said. “This was less daunting than I expected, and donating white blood cells for research was less intense than donating PBSC or marrow for transplant. There are many ways for people to help others, and this is just one of them.”

Pierre-Jacques, 38, is married to Maritsa and they have a three-year-old daughter. They live in Miami Beach where he works as an asset manager. He is a graduate of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, and he enjoys spending his free time playing with his daughter and exercising.