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Graft Versus Host Disease – A Liability of Bone Marrow Transplantation

Inside the bones of a human body, there exists a soft substance called the bone marrow. It produces the stem cells. These cells have the potential to get converted in to either the red blood cells or in to the white blood cells as par the requirement. Red blood cells are the main source of oxygen supply to our body. The white body cells protect us from diseases and illness. When these cells get infected, their replacement by healthy ones, is imperative for the survival of the patient. Then, a medical procedure called the bone marrow transplantation is carried out. It provides a new lease of life for the patient.

Sometimes cancer treatment techniques, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy, also lead to bone marrow transplantation. Harmful chemicals are used in chemotherapy and powerful energy waves are used in radiation therapy, to kill the malignant cancer cells. Their usage sometimes destroy the bone marrow requiring immediate transplantation.

What is Graft-Versus-Host-Disease: Bone marrow transplantation essentially requires some criterion to be met, prior to the commencement of the process. There is a donor, from whose body the healthy stem cells are collected. These stem cells are replaced by the unhealthy ones in the recipients body. But, it is essential that the stem cells of the donor’s and the recipient’s body are identical. This is an ideal case. Only twins have identical stem cells. In reality, doctors carry out a test prior to the bone marrow transplantation. In this test, the stem cells of the donor and the recipient are matched and the closeness is measured. Only when doctors get convinced from the results of this test, they conduct the transplantation. But still, the risk remains. That risk is technically called the Graft Versus Host Disease.

How it is a Liability to Bone Marrow Transplantation: Depending upon the difference between the T cells of the donor’s and the recipient’s body, the Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) begins. The T cells are a type of white blood cells. They are responsible for identifying any foreign body and destroying it. After the bone marrow transplantation, the T cells of the donor’s body identify the normal healthy cells of the recipients body, as foreign ones and start killing them. This is due to the mismatch. When this happens, the entire process of bone marrow transplantation, proves counter productive instead.

If the donor and the recipient are related, the chances of GVHD is between 30-40 percent. If the donor and the recipient are unrelated (which is mostly the case), the chances increase up to 60-80 percent. The first 3 months after bone marrow transplantation are very crucial. It is during this period that the risk of GVHD is maximum. It is known as Acute GVHD. In some cases, risk period can extends even up to 3 years. It is known as Chronic GVHD. The patients during these times, take special kind of medication called the immunosuppressant drugs to deal with the threat of GVHD.

Some Symptoms of Acute GVHD are:

  • Fever
  • Skin rash
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Diarrhea

Some Chronic GVHD symptoms are:

  • Skin rash
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Hepatitis
  • Lung disorder
  • Digestive tract disorder

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