Complications and success in bone marrow transplant
Transplantation of haematopoietic stem cells or bone marrow does not come without some risks or complications for the person with haematological deficiencies or diseases. Here, we explain the...
A bone marrow transplant is a therapeutic procedure that aims to replace damaged bone marrow with healthy marrow in order to treat certain types of blood disorders. The transplant is carried out by injecting haematopoietic stem cells that turn into healthy platelets, red and white blood cells. It is a complicated intervention that can pose risks. It is necessary that you are in good health (with the exception of the existing condition) and that any other treatments have not helped. The healthy bone marrow can be taken from your own body, and if that is not possible, it can be taken from a compatible donor, preferably a close family member (a sibling or a parent). Bone marrow from another person that is registered in the donor registry and that it is compatible with yours can also be used.
The procedure is carried out when the bone marrow is damaged and is not able to produce healthy blood cells. Conditions that bone marrow transplant can be used to treat include:
There are two types of bone marrow transplant:
The major risks related to the procedure are:
Once the intervention is finished, you will need to stay in hospital for around one month and be kept away from pathogens, as the risk of infection can last up to two years post-intervention. Three months after the transplant, your doctor will be able to see if the transplanted cells are reproducing healthily. If it has been successful, the effect on your quality of life will be extremely beneficial. However, you will need to get yourself checked for possible endocrine pathologies (for ex. thyroid disorders)
If you are suffering from thalassaemia, there is an alternative treatment called gene therapy. It consists of injecting a vector from the lentivirus group into your own stem cells that contains genetic information, which allows a correct synthesis of the beta-globin genes.
Nowadays, there is a new approach to treat those who need a bone marrow transplant and those whose thymus does not work correctly, called regenerative therapy, which usesin vitro cell culture with the objective to generate transplantable organs. This treatment is still in an experimental phase and up to today, there is only one medical centre at the University of Edinburgh which has created a working thymus injected with the organism.