University of British Columbia researchers have discovered a "molecular key" that could help increase the success of blood stem cell transplants, a procedure currently used to treat diseases such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and aplastic anemia.
During a blood stem cell transplant, donor blood stem cells – which can produce red and white blood cells and platelets – are injected into the recipient to produce new blood. The stem cells then need to travel to the thymus – an organ near the heart – and produce T-cells, a type of white blood cell that orchestrates the body’s immune system.
A common problem with blood stem cell transplants is the failure of stem cells to repopulate the thymus and generate T-cells. Without T-cells the patient is unable to fight infection and post-transplant prognosis is poor.