A recent study that was undergone to determine how effective – and how safe – a stem cell transplant for lupus patients found that the approach was both effective and safe. The results were published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The researchers specifically targeted patients with systemic lupus erythematosus who did not respond to conventional treatments for lupus. Certain types of stem cells have been used to treat these types of patients before. In this study, researchers used mesenchymal stem cells because these cells have advantageous properties that make them likely to be effective in the treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus, as well as properties that make them likely to be safer than hematopoietic stem cells.

There were 15 patients who underwent mesenchymal stem cell transplantation as part of this study. The researchers followed up with the majority of these patients for over a year following the procedure. When assessing the patients, the researchers tested them on the systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index (SLEDAI) and for proteinuria, as these tests can be used to evaluate lupus status and kidney function. The researchers found that every patient who had received the stem cell transplantation showed clinical improvement in their lupus.

Once a year had passed since the stem cell transplantation, all but 2 patients continued to experience an improvement in their lupus, while the other 2 patients had a relapse in their proteinuria. The researchers looked at other signs of kidney and non-kidney function and found evidence of improvement from those tests as well. The researchers did not observe any serious adverse side effects from the stem cell transplantation.

These results demonstrate the promise of mesenchymal stem cell transplant for lupus patients who do not respond to conventional treatments. Given that the stem cells appear to be safe for this application and also to improve lupus, further research will likely help clarify the best way that these stem cells may be used to help patients who suffer from lupus.

To learn more about stem cell transplant for lupus patients, click here.

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