Basics Things to Know About Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation
A stem cell transplant that uses autologous cells has certain benefits over one that uses donor cells. Autologous stem cells will not create a possible incompatibility issue since the cells come from the individual’s own body and therefore there is no need to worry about the donor’s cells and the individual’s cells not being compatible.
Autologous stem cell transplantation is a procedure in which stem cells are sourced from the patient’s own body, collected in advance and frozen. Following high doses of chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy, the stem cells are then transplanted back into the patient, making it a form of treatment for various medical ailments including:
- Shoulder injuries
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Brain injuries
Main Objective of Autologous Stem Cell Implantation
- Minimize Damage to Bone Marrow: The high-dose chemotherapy or radiation therapy used to treat cancers can severely damage the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. By transplanting previously collected stem cells back into the patient’s body, the recovery of blood cell production is accelerated, reducing the risk of severe and prolonged bone marrow suppression.
- Stem Cell Rescue: The stored stem cells serve as a “rescue” mechanism after the aggressive treatment. They help to replenish the blood cell population, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which are crucial for maintaining proper immune function and preventing infections, anemia, and bleeding.
- Avoid Immune Rejection: Using the patient’s own stem cells eliminates the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a potentially serious complication that can occur when donor cells (allogeneic cells) are used for transplantation. In an autologous transplant, there is no need to find a matching donor, reducing the risk of immune rejection.
- Higher Dose of Chemotherapy: Autologous stem cell transplantation allows for the administration of higher doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy than would be possible with standard treatments. This is because the transplanted stem cells can rescue the bone marrow from the effects of the intensive treatment.
- Improve Treatment Efficacy: For certain types of cancers, autologous stem cell transplantation has been shown to improve treatment outcomes and increase the chances of disease remission or cure.
- Reduced Recovery Time: Patients who undergo autologous stem cell transplantation typically experience a faster recovery compared to allogeneic transplantation, where donor cells are used. This can lead to a quicker return to normal activities and a lower risk of complications.
What is the Procedure of Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation?
Step 1: Stem Cell Mobilization
In order to harvest stem cells, they first must be “mobilized” from the bone marrow into the bloodstream. This process is often accomplished through the use of growth factors such as granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF).
Step 2: Reaping or Harvesting (Apheresis)
A machine called apheresis is used to collect stem cells from the bloodstream once they have been mobilized.
Step 3: Cryopreservation
The stem cells that have been harvested are placed in liquid nitrogen where they are frozen until they are needed for transplantation.
Step 4: Conditioning Administration
Prior to a transplant of stem cells, a conditioning regimen is administered, consisting of significant amounts of chemotherapy and/or radiation in order to dislodge cancer cells and provide an environment within the bone marrow where the newly-transplanted stem cells can thrive.
Step 5: Transplantation
The patient’s stored stem cells are thawed and infused into their bloodstream, where they migrate to the bone marrow. Once they reach the bone marrow, the stem cells begin to produce new blood cells.
The benefit of autologous stem cell transplantation is that a person’s own cells are used, therefore decreasing the odds of experiencing graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Nevertheless, this type of transplant is a serious medical process and can come with its own potential risks and complications. It is thus advised that individuals speak with a doctor specializing in cancer or blood-related diseases before deciding whether or not they should undergo the procedure.