Stem Cell Transplantation- The Basics
Cancer sucks, right? It is one of the leading causes of death all over the world. Although its formation can be attributed to a lot of factors, it all boils down to the same thing- that it can potentially kill us.
There are many treatments already available for the treatment of various cancers. There are chemotherapy and radioimmunology sessions that can help us kill most of the cancer cells that are present in the body.
However, these procedures are also dangerous because they can also kill the body’s stem cells- cells that play an important role in our system.
So, to help replenish those stem cells, you will need to undergo a process known as Stem Cell Transplantation. If it is used to replenish the bone marrow stem cells, then the process can also be called Bone Marrow Transplant.
How Does Stem Cell Transplantation Work?
Now, you might have asked the question, “how does this all work?”, after reading the last bit, right? Well, that is actually quite common, but the procedure is as follows:
1. The Patient is Conditioned
By ‘conditioned’, I mean that the patient is given strong cancer-killing drugs (also known as Chemotherapy) to help eliminate all of the cancer cells in the body. Oftentimes, it is also accompanied by some radiation as well just to increase the cancer-killing effects of the drugs.
This part of the procedure is also known as Priming because it allows the patient’s body to receive the stem cells much more effectively.
2. The Stem Cell Extraction
In some cases, the stem cells are extracted from the patient’s body itself. This provides the best compatibility among all of the other options. But there are also times where a family member, typically the brother or sister, will be asked to donate their stem cells to the patient as well.
However, if the patient is the only child, their family and friends might need to get a suitable donor for the patient instead.
3. The Transplantation
Once the stem cells are harvested, it is frozen for a couple of days and then it will be transplanted into the patient’s body. The stem cells will then “graft” with your bone marrow to produce the cells that were lost during the conditioning phase.
This means that the stem cells will assimilate with your bone marrow and then it goes on ahead to produce the red and white blood cells, as well as some platelets as well.
There are different types of stem cell transplantation. They are:
- Autologous– This is where your own stem cells are extracted. This provides the best compatibility as it would not be deemed as “foreign” by your body.
- Allogeneic– This method refers to deriving the stem cells from anyone other than the patient. This can include direct family members or it can also be derived from someone completely unrelated to the patient.
- Reduced-Intensity- This is just the same as the allogeneic transplantation. The only main difference is that the chemotherapy sessions are less intense than usual. This is only given to people who are already old.