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Stem Cell Transplant for Lupus - Topic Overview

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 cells are immature cells that are produced in the bone marrow. They can divide to produce more stem cells or mature into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

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Understanding Lupus -- Symptoms

Lupus improves at times, and worsens at others. Symptoms of lupus may include: Profound fatigue Low-grade fever Severe joint pain and muscle aches  Skin rash on the face or body Extreme sun sensitivity Weight loss Mental confusion and seizures Chest pain on taking a deep breath Nose, mouth, or throat sores Enlarged lymph nodes Poor circulation in fingers and toes Bald patches and hair loss  

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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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 10, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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