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Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue, in the center of most bones, that contains hematopoietic stem cells for replenishing the blood cells and immune cells in our body. In the case of blood-borne diseases or immune disorders, medical professionals often perform transplantation of bone marrow so that healthy blood and immune cells can be produced in order to act against the ailment. A bone marrow stem cell transplant is generally a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, which is often used for the treatment of leukemia, myeloma, lymphoma, and other blood or immune system diseases.

What are the different types of bone marrow stem cell transplant?

There are generally two types of bone marrow stem cell transplants:

  • Autologous transplant: Autologous stem cell transplant procedure utilizes stem cells that come from the patient’s own body. In the case of autologous bone marrow stem cell transplant, doctors extract Stem Cells from the bone marrow of the patient before going for chemotherapy (in case of cancers) or heavy dosage drug medications so that these cells are not affected during medication treatment. Following that, these stem cells are processed and re-infused into the patient’s body for restoring the natural effectiveness of the immune system and the body’s ability to produce blood cells.

 

  • Allogenic transplant: Allogeneic stem cell transplant procedure utilizes stem cells that come from another person, termed as a donor. Finding the right “donor match” is an important step for allogenic transplants and this is done by detecting closely related human leukocyte antigens (HLA) through the process of HLA typing. This is done to ensure inhibition of any serious side effects related to graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). A common source of allogeneic transplant is umbilical cord blood.

How does an autologous transplant work?

Step 1: Collecting the stem cells by extracting them from the patient’s bone marrow.

Step 2: Pre-transplant treatment in case of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or heavy-dose medications. 

Step 3: Processing of the stem cells and re-infusing them back to the patient’s body either through intravenous ways or site-specific ways. More than one infusion may be required.

Step 4: Recovery of the patient and reducing the symptoms. During this process, the doctor closely monitors recovery and repair of damaged, besides treating side effects (if any). 

How does an allogenic transplant work?

Step 1: Donor identification is important and HLA testing is performed through blood testing.

Step 2: Collecting stem cells from your donor in similar ways to autologous transplant stem cell extraction but the process is not performed with the patient. 

Step 3: Pre-transplant treatment in case of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or heavy-dose medications. 

Step 4: Processing of the stem cells and re-infusing them back to the patient’s body either through intravenous ways or site-specific ways. More than one infusion may be required.

Step 5: Recovery of the patient and reducing the symptoms. During this process, the doctor closely monitors recovery and repair of damaged, besides treating side effects to manage GVHD (if any).

Recovery phase of bone marrow stem cell Transplant?

Recovery from a bone marrow stem cell transplant does take a long time and during the initial recovery period, it’s crucial to look out for side effects and infections. Heavy medications and radiation therapy in the pre-treatment medication often affect the immune system and therefore it takes some time for the natural immune system to normalize and stem cells infused in the body also start working as immunomodulatory factors. Generally, antibiotics are given to prevent any mild infection risk in the patient prior to medications including drugs to prevent and/or manage GVHD. Consult the medical professional and allow close monitoring of the patient’s health with several tests including blood tests to understand how the body and immune system are responding to the donor stem cells. Patients are also advised to develop a long-term recovery plan with their doctors.

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