Bone marrow transplants - improving success | Children's Charity

Bone marrow transplants - improving success

This research was completed on 30 September 2008

Project LeaderDr Muzlifah Haniffa
LocationDepartment of Rheumatology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne
Grant awarded1 July 2005
Start date1 October 2005
End date30 September 2008
Grant amount£175,229.00
Grant codeRTF1155

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Graft versus host disease (GVHD) is a major life-threatening complication of bone marrow transplantation. It occurs in 40-60% of transplant patients and can be fatal in up to half of them. GVHD results from destruction of the patient’s cells by the donor’s bone-marrow cells. It has long term effects and can lead to peeling and scarring of the skin, diarrhoea, liver failure and breathlessness. GVHD is usually treated by drugs that suppress the immune system, but these cause side effects and predispose the patients to infections and cancer. Special immune cells called dendritic cells send out signals when the body is challenged by invaders, leading to destruction of the invader. Dendritic cells also help prevent the body from seeing its own tissues as foreign, thus preventing it from damaging itself – this is called tolerance. Dr Haniffa aims to manipulate the dendritic cells so that they do not see transplanted cells as being foreign, and thus induce tolerance. Ultimately, Dr Haniffa hopes that by modifying the dendritic cells from each patient having a bone marrow transplant, that she can create a person specific vaccine to prevent GVHD. This form of treatment may also have application for a wide range of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

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