Stem cell transplants can save lives, for example in patients with leukemia. However, these treatments are not free of risks. One complication that may occur is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), basically donor-derived immune cells attacking the recipient’s body. A team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has identified molecular mechanisms that may protect patients against this dangerous response in the future. The key to preventing GVHD is in the gut.
In order to enable foreign stem cells to multiply in the body and produce healthy blood cells, doctors first need to make room for them. This is achieved by destroying existing cells in the bone marrow using drugs or radiation.
One of the risks resulting from this pre-treatment is GVHD, which occurs in about half of all treatments. In simple terms, during GVHD the transplanted stem cells become T lymphocytes. These immune cells, which are supposed to fight intruders such as bacteria, …