What are Hematopoietic Stem Cells?
Hematopoietic stem cells (referred to as stem cells on this website) are unique cells that are primarily located in the bone marrow. These stem cells mature into a number of blood cell types found in your body.
The Biology of Stem Cells
In adults, the bones of the hip and chest contain the greatest amount of bone marrow and stem cells. Stem cells that leave the bone marrow and circulate into the bloodstream are called peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs). Although very few PBSCs are found in the blood stream (outside the bone marrow space) their numbers can be increased through administering mobilization agents.
What is a Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant?
A hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) is the infusion of bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells into a patient’s bloodstream. The stem cells then travel through the blood to the bone marrow, where they take up residence. These cells then grow and divide to produce mature red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
If you donate your own stem cells for use in transplant, it is referred to as an autologous stem cell transplant. An autologous stem cell transplant is used to treat forms of blood cancer such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma (MM).
Why Are Stem Cell Transplants Performed?
The idea behind the autologous stem cell transplant process is to allow administration of higher chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy doses to kill cancerous cells. Although these anticancer treatments are among the most effective available, they do not have a precise aim and can destroy normal cells as well. In an autologous stem cell transplant, a patient’s own stem cells are collected before treatment and are then returned after the high dose chemotherapy or radiation is given. This enables patients to produce new cells destroyed during chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.