Stem cell transplantation is the replacement of damaged bone marrow cells with healthy cells, or stem cells. It is generally done after powerful drugs have been used to wipe out the damaged immune system (immunoablation).
Stem cell transplantation has serious risks. After a person's stem cells have been collected from the bloodstream, they are returned to the bloodstream along with a stem cell growth factor. If successful, the stem cells help the bone marrow return to a healthy state. But during the two weeks that the immune system requires to become strong again, the body is extremely vulnerable to life-threatening infection.
Small studies of stem cell transplantation for people with severe lupus have shown that it may help some people but it also has serious side effects.1 This procedure is considered a high-risk, expensive, and experimental treatment for lupus.