Saturday, January 16, 2010

Marvelous Bodies

In writing the account of a bone marrow transplant to save a child with Wiskott Aldrich Syndrome, a genetic defect that attacks the immune system, I discovered that the transplant is not a surgical procedure. The recipient’s own bone marrow is first killed by chemotherapy and is then withdrawn by suction. That step, the preparatory step, does involve surgical intrusion. But the transfer of the donor’s marrow, the actual transplant, happens in a procedure that is like a blood transfusion. A solution with the new marrow is infused into the arteries. The marrow-cells then find their way into the bone cavities of the recipient entirely on their own. They settle in—engraft is the technical word for this—and, once at home, the cells begin to produce the blood cells for the body, which is their job. The transfusion takes place rapidly. The engraftment takes about two weeks. This absolutely amazes me.

4 comments:

  1. Yes, our bodies are marvelous and we have so very much more to learn about the musterious workings of this physical home of ours.

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  2. My son had WAS. His transplant did not go like this. He had an unrelated donor. However, in gene therapy they use their own blood. I know of two boys who just went through this. Their future health is unknown at this time. It's too soon to know.

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  3. The transplant I was perhaps not clearly describing also involved an unrelated donor. I don't discuss the donor in the post. I hope all goes very well for your son. I have some feel for what you have been through.

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  4. I find incredible the fact that we now KNOW how this invisible process works. How did science discover that bone marrow produces blood cells? How did doctors discover that if you inject a donor's bone marrow into a receiver's blood stream the cells would eventually find their way to their home?Amazing! I think of all the mice who had bone marrow transplants.... Thank you little mice for making this process available to little boys!

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