Male gene sparks immune reaction to stem cell transplants from female donors

Researchers report that in some cases of stem cell transplants from female donors to male recipients, the transplanted cells mount an immunological attack against the product of a gene carried by most cells in the body of male recipients. Emmanuel Zorn, PhD, says it is the first time that the gene, located on the Y chromosome and known as DBY, has been identified following a female-to-male stem cell transplant for leukemia.

From the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute :
A gene carried only by males sparks immune reaction to stem cell transplants from female donors

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers report that in some cases of stem cell transplants from female donors to male recipients, the transplanted cells mount an immunological attack against the product of a gene carried by most cells in the body of male recipients.

Emmanuel Zorn, PhD, says it is the first time that the gene, located on the Y chromosome and known as DBY, has been identified following a female-to-male stem cell transplant for leukemia.

The findings are published in the Proceedings for the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

The immune attack has its good and bad sides. On one hand, the T-cells from the donor seek out and destroy remaining leukemia cells. But the immune reaction may also increase the risk of graft-vs-host disease, a dangerous complication in which white cells attack the patient’s healthy tissues.

Zorn, who received an AACR Scholar-In-Training Award for his abstract, found that the immune reaction was sustained for almost two years following the transplant. These findings, says Zorn, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, will help scientists to better understand these post-transplant reactions and perhaps lead to improved treatments.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.


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