Blood test could predict graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in BM transplants

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Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a serious potential complication following a bone marrow transplant in which the freshly transplanted bone marrow cells begin to attack the host's tissue. GVHD is directly or indirectly responsible for about half of all marrow-transplant deaths.

Typically, GVHD first causes a skin rash, but a time-consuming skin biopsy is often required to determine whether or not the rash is a symptom of GVHD. Unfortunately, because of the serious nature of GVHD, doctors can't wait around for the results of the biopsy and immediately begin to aggressively treat any such rash with steroids, whether GVHD is to blame or not. The steroids further suppress the patient's immune system, putting them at greater risk of life-threatening infections.

However, in the 6 January 2010 issue of Science Translational Medicine researchers from the University of Michigan report that they may have found a biomarker in the blood that could be used to determine whether that rash is a symptom of GVHD or just a bad reaction to antibiotics.

The biomarker is a protein called elafin, and findings suggest that the higher the concentration of elafin in the blood, the greater the chance that a patient's rash will indicate GVHD. Doctors could use the test to determine which transplant patients will require closer scrutiny and therefore a more aggressive response if and when a post-transplant rash develops.

Read more at Sciencenews.org

By Ross Bonander

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