Stem Cell Transplant for Lupus

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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.

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.

This procedure is considered a high-risk, expensive, and experimental treatment for lupus.

Related Information


    Other Works Consulted

    • Hahn BH (2015). Systemic lupus erythematosus. In DL Kasper et al., eds., Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2124–2134. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.


    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
    E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerNancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology

    Current as ofApril 19, 2016