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New method for stem cell transplant

15 August 2016 08:18

A student looks at matter under a microscope

A student looks at matter under a microscope

A new way to try and carry out bone marrow transplants without using toxic chemotherapy is being investigated.

A technique has been developed by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine who have been looking for a way to wipe out a patient's own bone marrow, creating room for donated cells, without the traditional option of chemotherapy or radiation.

Currently, anyone receiving a bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, must undergo unpleasant chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments to kill the patient's own population of blood stem cells first.

Long-lasting effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause nerve, organ and brain damage and could even cause a second cancer.

New cure could be on the horizon

Using mice, scientists developed a new method that uses antibodies and biologic agents to encourage the animal's immune system to deplete their blood-forming stem cells and clear the way for transplanted cells from a donor.

The findings have been published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

Stanford researcher Judith Shizuru said the study had used "safer techniques to seed the new blood-generating cells".

She added that if the procedure works in humans like it did in mice then there scientists would expect that the risk of death from blood stem cell transplant to drop from 20% to "effectively zero".

"New era" for treatments

The breakthrough could mean significant changes in the way some illnesses are treated.

Research co-author Irving Weissman said: "If and when this is accomplished, it will be a whole new era in disease treatment and regenerative medicine."

It is a possibility that the treatment could also cure any disease caused by the patient's own blood and immune cells such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes and even cancer.

More research is planned in the future involving humans.

Holidays with cancer

Cancer need not spell an end to holidays abroad for patients. They can give themselves protection by taking out cancer-related travel insurance.

This can cover the cost of providing 24/7 emergency medical assistance and replacement medication.

It also covers the usual travel insurance things, such as lost passports, cancelled or delayed plane departures and stolen luggage or possessions.