Bone marrow transplant, also known as stem cell transplants are done for replacing damaged blood cells and infusing healthy ones. This procedure is required for treatment of health conditions that mainly affect blood cells like lymphoma and leukemia.
Stem cells are the special cells that are produced through bone marrow (the spongy tissue in the bone’s center) turning into different blood cells.
There are 3 blood cell types that they become:
- White blood cells – Helping in fighting the infection
- Red blood cells – that are carrier of oxygen throughout the body
- Platelets – that are helpful for stopping the bleeding
The procedure of stem cell transplant is meant for destroying unhealthy blood cells and replacing these with the stem cells that were removed through blood or through the bone marrow.
The reason for carrying out stem cell transplants
Stem cell transplants match are required for treatment of conditions where the bone marrow gets damaged and is not able to produce healthy blood cells.
The transplants can also get carried out for replacement of blood cells that have been destroyed or damaged as an outcome of the intensive procedure of cancer treatment.
Various health conditions that are treated through stem cell transplantation include:
- Lymphoma – A type of cancer that affects white blood cells
- Leukemia – Another cancer that affects the white blood cells
- Myeloma – a type of cancer that affects cells known as plasma cells
- Certain types of metabolic, immune system and blood disorders – A few examples are thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) along with Hurler syndrome.
A stem cell transplant typically only gets carried out when no other treatments are delivering results. The prospective benefits through a bone marrow transplant compensate all associated risks and you remain in a relatively good health, despite the underlying condition you’re in.
What is involved in stem cell transplant?
A stem cell transplantation procedure consists of taking out the healthy stem cells from bone marrow or blood of a person – can be a close member of the family with similar type of tissue – and then transferring it to the affected person – the process is known as an allogeneic transplant.
Also it is totally possible to remove all the stem cells out of your body and later transplant them, after the diseased or damaged cells get removed. This process is known as autologous transplant.
The procedure of stem cell transplantation is divided in 5 main stages, respectively as:
- Harvesting- process of obtaining stem cells in the transplant, either from self or donor.
- Examinations and tests – for assessing the general health level
- Conditioning – treating with radiotherapy, chemotherapy for preparing the body for transplantation procedure
- Transplant procedure of stem cells
- Finally, recovery
The procedure of stem cell transplantation is a highly challenging and intensive experience. The patient would have to stay within the hospital for around a month or more until the transplant starts taking effect and it might take a year or 2 for fully recovering. The transplant process for stem cells isn’t possible by self and the patient requires donor for the stem cells.
The transplant has better chances of being successful if the donated cells are carrying special genetic marker – known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) – similar or identical to the person getting transplant.
Finding a donor for stem cell transplant is simple and can be done through the registry, although in some cases it becomes very difficult to get an ideal match. Thus, utmost care and precautions must be followed throughout the process.
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