Reduction of intra- and interlaboratory variation in CD34+ stem cell enumeration using stable test material, standard protocols and targeted training


Dr D.Barnett Department of Haematology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK. E-mail:


The European Working Group on Clinical Cell Analysis (EWGCCA) has, in preparation for a multicentre peripheral blood stem cell clinical trial, developed a single-platform flow cytometric protocol for the enumeration of CD34+ stem cells. Using this protocol, stabilized blood and targeted training, the EWGCCA have attempted to standardize CD34+ stem cell enumeration across 24 clinical sites. Results were directly compared with participants in the UK National External Quality Assessment Scheme (NEQAS) for CD34+ Stem Cell Quantification that analysed the same specimens using non-standardized methods. Two bead-counting systems, Flow-Count and TruCount, were also evaluated by the EWGCCA participants during trials 2 and 3. Using Flow-Count, the intralaboratory coefficient of variation (CV) was ≤ 5% in 39% of the laboratories (trial 1), increasing to 65% by trial 3. Interlaboratory variation was reduced from 23.3% (trial 1) to 10.8% in trial 3. In trial 2, 70% of laboratories achieved an intralaboratory CV ≤ 5% using TruCount, increasing to 74% for trial 3; the interlaboratory CV was reduced from 23.4% to 9.5%. Comparative analysis of the EWGCCA and the UK NEQAS cohorts revealed that EWGCCA laboratories, using the standardized approach, had lower interlaboratory variation. Thus, the use of a common standardized protocol and targeted training significantly reduced intra- and interlaboratory CD34+ cell count variation.