British researchers have made a breakthrough in understanding the use of mesenchymal stem cells to tackle graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), it has been announced.
Mesenchymal stem cells are known to be able to stop the adverse reactions that can occur after stem cell transplantation – but treatment efficacy can be unpredictable.
Now researchers at King’s College, London suggest that treatment may be effective when the immune system successfully destroys the infused mesenchymal stem cells. This may be because the dying cells signal the immune system to stop attacking healthy tissue.
The team, reporting in Science Translational Medicine, go on to report that the process can be reproduced in mice – suggesting that dying mesenchymal stem cells could perhaps be used in patient transplants. The findings could also help in screening prospective candidates for treatment.
Researcher Professor Francesco Dazzi said: “The side effects of a stem cell transplant can be fatal and this factor is a serious consideration in deciding whether some people are suitable to undergo one. If we can be more confident that we can control these lethal complications in all patients, more people will be able to receive this life saving procedure.
“The next step will be to introduce clinical trials for patients with GvHD, either using the procedure only in patients with immune systems capable of killing mesenchymal stem cells - or killing these cells before they are infused into the patient, to see if this does indeed improve the success of treatment.”
Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at the charity Bloodwise, which backed the research, said: “Research to improve the effectiveness of stem cell transplantation is vital and we look forward to seeing these exciting findings tested in people living with blood cancer.”
Source: Apoptosis in mesenchymal stromal cells induces in vivo recipient-mediated immunomodulation Science Translational Medicine 15 November 2017
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