Bone marrow transplantation, also known as blood stem cell transplantation, is an effective method of treating diseases but can still put a patient in harm’s way. However, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine claim that they found a way to lower the treatment’s toxicity.
As stated in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the research team used antibodies to attach to a cell surface protein called c-kit and to block the protein named CD47. The use of antibodies depleted the blood-forming stem cells to make way for the transplant without the use of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, which can kill healthy cells and can cause other problems.
Although this experiment was performed on mice, the researchers believe that it can also work on humans. Once they found that it is effective for human use, they hope that it could also treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other cancer forms.
Many patients suffer complications from bone marrow transplant through the method we currently use. However, with this new approach, the risk of death will reduce from 20 percent to zero.
Moreover, current chemotherapy approach also insists on administering drugs to patients to prevent their immune system from attacking the transplanted organ. Some of these drugs can even increase the patient’s vulnerability to get infections and form cancers.
However, with the method used by the Stanford University School of Medicine research team, the patient’s immune system will recognize the organ and will not attack it without the need of drugs. In a way, the transplanted tissue as well as the patient’s own tissue will learn to live with each other.
“The transplanted cells, the donated organ and the patient’s own tissues all learn to coexist,” says the study’s lead author Judith Shizuru. “The donor blood stem cells re-educate the immune system of the patient, and the transplanted organ doesn’t get kicked out.”