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Scientists to investigate preventing life-threatening complications in transplant patients
Date:8/20/2012

Scientists from the University of Southampton have received a grant from the blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to explore ways of preventing life-threatening side effects in patients receiving bone marrow transplants.

The team, led by Aymen Al-Shamkhani a Professor of Immunology, has received 270,000 for the three-year project to improve transplants, which often offer a last chance of a cure for patients with many different types of blood cancer.

When transplanted, donor bone marrow helps to replenish a healthy blood supply, repairing damage caused by chemotherapy. Among the blood cells transplanted are T-cells, white blood cells crucial to the body's immune system that recognise alien cells and fight infection. In a process called graft-vs-leukaemia (GVL), these new T-cells hunt down any malignant leukaemia cells that have survived chemotherapy.

However, in many cases when the donor and patient are not an exact genetic match, donor T-cells also recognise healthy cells as 'foreign'. The new immune system fights the patient's body in a complication called graft-vs-host disease (GVHD). This occurs in around half of all bone marrow transplants and can be life-threatening and cause long-term health problems.

One way to reduce the chances of developing GVHD is to remove T-cells from the donor bone marrow at the time of the transplant and providing them a later transfusion.

However, delaying the introduction of T-cells reduces the vital GVL effect, creating a high risk of the blood cancer relapsing.

Prof Al-Shamkhani's team will address these problems by investigating ways to stimulate donor T-cells so that they only target the cancerous cells and don't get worn out, thus making the T-cells more effective at fighting the cancer while reducing the chances of GVHD.

Prof Al-Shamkhani said: "Recent research has provided some indication of ways in which GVHD can be prevented, although ofte
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Contact: Becky Attwood
r.attwood@soton.ac.uk
44-023-805-95457
University of Southampton
Source:Eurekalert

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