All autoimmune diseases are caused by an overactive immune system that targets your own cells rather than foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses. There are over 80 known autoimmune diseases including type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Not all autoimmune diseases can be treated with a stem cell transplant, but they can help people with systemic sclerosis and multiple sclerosis, among other conditions.
Although autoimmune diseases are more common in some families, they are not inherited directly (like primary immunodeficiency diseases). They can also be caused by environmental factors, and can sometimes develop after an infection.
In 2016, 49 patients had a stem cell transplant for autoimmune diseases in the UK.
For more information, visit the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association’s website (AARDA).
A stem cell transplant would only be offered as an alternative treatment if other options have been unsuccessful or if your symptoms are becoming unmanageable.
It will likely be an autologous transplant – when doctors use your own stem cells. Some conditions can be treated with an allograft transplant – where new stem cells are donated from an unrelated donor, but this is rare.
Please speak to your transplant team for more information about your own situation, as they will be able to give you personalised, specific advice.
Information published: 17/01/18
Next review due: 17/01/21