A German study is hoping to identify genetic variants that influence the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).
GvHD can occur after an allogeneic blood stem cell transplant if the donor’s immune cells attack the patient’s healthy cells because they recognise them as foreign.
This is why it’s so important the HLA markers of patient and donor match as closely as possible. The better the match, the more likely the donor’s transplanted immune cells will recognise the recipient’s cells as the body’s own.
DKMS, an international non-profit organisation, are now looking for other ways to help improve the match between stem cell donor and recipient. The organisation runs the Collaborative Biobank (CoBi), a co-operative science platform with transplant centres, collection centres and donor centres.
A candidate gene study, called CoBi 20-01, aims to identify genetic variants within immune response genes in the donor genome that could influence the risk of GvHD.
So far, the charity’s researchers have evaluated more than 200 studies to find the most promising ‘candidate’ variants. They have now identified the donor samples stored at CoBi with these promising genetic variants.
The next stage of the research is to find out if the genetic variants are related to outcomes of stem cell recipients’ and the course of their disease.
If the researchers find that transplants from donors with certain genetic variants are significantly less likely to lead to severe GvHD in patients, these genetic characteristics could be used as further criteria for optimal donor selection.
Dr Alexander Schmidt, chief medical officer of DKMS, said: “As long as people are dying from graft-versus-host disease, our mission extends far beyond the registration of new blood stem cell donors: we must and will optimise the outcome of stem cell transplantations, for example, through improved donor selection.”
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