Stem cell transplantation for primary immunodeficiency: How it works

Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation can treat several forms of life-threatening immunodeficiency, including severe combined immunodeficiency disorder.

How it works

A stem cell is a type of cell that, under the right conditions, divides to form more stem cells as well as specialized cells with a more specific function. Hematopoietic stem cells produce each of the different types of blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

During hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for immunodeficiency disorders, you’ll have normal stem cells transferred to your body. The process is similar to a blood transfusion, only the fluid being transfused contains blood and stem cells. The goal is to give you a normally functioning immune system.

Hematopoietic stem cells can be harvested through bone marrow, or they can be obtained from the placenta at birth (cord blood banking). Your stem cell donor — usually a full sibling or a matched donor from a registry — must have body tissues that are a close biological match to yours.

March 29, 2016 See more In-depth