A bone marrow transplant delivers healthy bone marrow stem cells into the patient. It replaces bone marrow that is either not working properly or has been destroyed (ablated) by chemotherapy or radiation.
What Is A Bone Marrow Transplantation?
Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is a special therapy for patients with cancer or other diseases which affect the bone marrow. A bone marrow transplant involves taking cells that are normally found in the bone marrow (stem cells), filtering those cells, and giving them back either to the patient they were taken from or to another person. The goal of BMT is to transfuse healthy bone marrow cells into a person after their own unhealthy bone marrow has been eliminated.
Bone marrow is the soft, fatty tissue inside your bones. Stem cells are immature cells in the bone marrow. Some stem cells grow into different parts of your blood. These parts are:
- Red blood cells (which carry oxygen to your tissues)
- White blood cells (which fight infection)
- Platelets (which help your blood clot)
In a bone marrow transplant, you will receive healthy stem cells after your own bone marrow has been destroyed.
What Are Stem Cells?
Every type of blood cell in the bone marrow begins as a stem cell. Stem cells are immature cells that are able to produce other blood cells that mature and function as needed.
Stem cells are the most important cells needed in a bone marrow transplant. Stem cells, when transplanted, find their way to the recipient's marrow and begin to differentiate and produce all types of blood cells that are needed by the body.
What Is Definition Of Bone Marrow?
The bone marrow-the sponge-like tissue found in the center of certain bones-contains stem cells that are the precursors of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. These blood cells are vital for normal body functions, such as oxygen transport, defense against infection and disease, and clotting. Blood cells have a limited lifespan and are constantly being replaced; therefore, healthy stem cells are vital.
In association with certain diseases, stem cells may produce too many, too few, or otherwise abnormal blood cells. Also, medical treatments may destroy stem cells or alter blood cell production. The resultant blood cell abnormalities can be life threatening.
Bone marrow transplantation involves extracting bone marrow containing normal stem cells from a healthy donor, and transferring it to a recipient whose body cannot manufacture proper quantities of normal blood cells. The goal of the transplant is to rebuild the recipient's blood cells and immune system and hopefully cure the underlying ailment.
How Does One Prepare For Transplantation?
Having a transplant can be very demanding, physically and emotionally, and the family and friends too, may find this very stressful. It may help if patients can talk about their fears and concerns.
It is important to understand why one is having the transplant and what the actual processes will be, so that the patient can make practical arrangements and also prepare himself or herself mentally. It is a good idea to discuss the entire process with the doctors and nurses involved, before the patient goes into hospital.
What Is The Purpose Of Bone Marrow?
A person's red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets may be destroyed or may be abnormal due to disease. Also, certain medical therapies, particularly chemotherapy or radiation treatment, may destroy a person's stem cells. The consequence to a person's health is severe. Under normal circumstances, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and remove carbon dioxide from the body's tissues. White blood cells form the cornerstone of the body's immune system and defend it against infection. Platelets limit bleeding by enabling the blood to clot if a blood vessel is damaged.
A bone marrow transplant is used to rebuild the body's capacity to produce these blood cells and bring their numbers to normal levels. Illnesses that may be treated with a bone marrow transplant include both cancerous and noncancerous diseases.
Cancerous diseases may or may not specifically involve blood cells; but, cancer treatment can destroy the body's ability to manufacture new blood cells. Bone marrow transplantation may be used in conjunction with additional treatments, such as chemotherapy, for various types of leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, lymphoma, breast and ovarian cancer, and other cancers. Noncancerous diseases for which bone marrow transplantation can be a treatment option include aplastic anemia, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and severe immunodeficiency.
What Is The Precautions Of Bone Marrow Transplantation?
Bone marrow transplants are not for everyone. Transplants are accompanied by a risk of infection, transplant rejection by the recipient's immune system, and other complications. The procedure has a lower success rate the greater the recipient's age. Complications are exacerbated for people whose health is already seriously impaired as in late-stage cancers. Therefore, a person's age or state of health may prohibit use of a bone marrow transplant. The typical cut-off age for a transplant ranges from 40 to 55 years; however, a person's general health is usually the more important factor.
Even in the absence of complications, the transplant and associated treatments are hard on the recipient. Bone marrow transplants are debilitating. A person's ability to withstand the rigors of the transplant is a key consideration in deciding to use this treatment.
What Are The Different Types Of Bone Marrow Or Stem Cell Transplantation?
There are two main types of transplants –
Autologous And Allogenic.
Autologous Transplants:- This means that the bone marrow or stem cells used for the transplant are one’s own. A little bit of the patient’s bone marrow or stem cells is taken and stored before high dose treatment. When the treatment is over, the bone marrow or stem cells are given back through a vein.
Allogeneic Transplants:- In this type of transplant, bone marrow donated by someone else is used. It is essential that the donor’s tissue matches. The most suitable donor is usually a close relative, most commonly a brother or sister. It is possible to get a good match from an unrelated donor, but this facility does not exist in India.
What Is The Basic Process?
There are three main steps in the transplantation process -
The first step is the collection of the bone marrow or stem cells (the harvest) from the donor. We now know that the umbilical cord blood is also a rich source of stem cells.
The second step is to completely destroy the existing bone marrow and thereby help the patient receive the new stem cells.
The third step is to infuse the bone marrow or the stem cells through the intravenous route, like a blood transfusion. There may be no signs of a new bone marrow growing for two to three weeks, and occasionally it may be a few months before the new bone marrow produces all the components of the blood adequately.
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