Intended for healthcare professionals


Bone marrow transplantation for autoimmune diseases

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 20 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:750

An interesting approach—but only for patients with few alternatives

  1. Michael Potter, Senior lecturer in haematology,
  2. Carol Black, Professor of rheumatology,
  3. Abi Berger, Science editor
  1. Royal Free Hospital, London NW3 2QG
  2. BMJ

    The cross fertilisation of ideas between different medical specialties means that traditional techniques from one field are beginning to find surprising roles in others. Bone marrow transplantation, for example, is becoming more sophisticated and safer, particularly since the advent of peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, and this is now being studied as a treatment for autoimmune diseases.13

    Conventionally, long term immunosuppressive drugs are administered to control the autoimmune disease process, but these offer little in the way of a cure. Because autoimmunity is viewed as a failure of the immune system to protect against self reactivity, however, some have argued that by completely “resetting” the immune system, it might be possible to eradicate the autoimmune disease process altogether. People with both haematological malignancies and autoimmune diseases sometimes go into remission from both conditions after undergoing bone marrow transplantation. This incidental observation has prompted some haematologists to argue that such a reset of the immune system may be provoked by completely ablating …

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