Stem Cell Transplant for Lupus

Topic Overview

Stem cell transplantation is the replacement of damaged bone marrow cells with healthy cells, or stem cells. It is generally done after powerful drugs have been used to wipe out the damaged immune system (immunoablation).

Stem cells are immature cells that are produced in the bone marrow. They can divide to produce more stem cells or mature into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Stem cell transplantation has serious risks. After a person's stem cells have been collected from the bloodstream, they are returned to the bloodstream along with a stem cell growth factor. If successful, the stem cells help the bone marrow return to a healthy state. But during the two weeks that the immune system requires to become strong again, the body is extremely vulnerable to life-threatening infection.

Small studies of stem cell transplantation for people with severe lupus have shown that it may help some people but it also has serious side effects.1 This procedure is considered a high-risk, expensive, and experimental treatment for lupus.

References

Citations

  1. Hahn BH (2012). Systemic lupus erythematosus. In DL Longo et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2724–2735. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
Last Revised May 10, 2012

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