Stem cell transplantation (SCT)

In a stem cell transplant, blood forming progenitor cells, so-called blood stem cells or haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), are given. They are formed in the bone marrow. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation plays an important role in curing diseases caused by bone marrow malfunction, as well as diseases that destroy the bone marrow during the treatment.

Author:  Dr. med. Gesche Riabowol (née Tallen), Dr. med. Jörn Kühl, Editor:  Maria Yiallouros, Reviewer:  PD Dr. med. S. Voigt, English Translation:  Dr. med. Gesche Riabowol (nee Tallen), Last modification: 2024/04/29

Since the first successful stem cell transplantation (SCT) in 1972, this form of treatment has become increasingly important in the treatment of numerous cancers, severe diseases of the blood or immune system as well as some rare hereditary diseases that cannot be cured with other treatment methods.

In a stem cell transplant, haematopoietic progenitor cells, so-called "blood stem cells" or "haematopoietic stem cells" (HSCs), are given. They are formed in the bone marrow, the soft, spongy tissue inside many bones. There, they mature (differentiate) into the various blood cell lines, such as white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes) and platelets (thrombocytes). Once matured, they enter the bloodstream.

For a long time, blood stem cells for transplantation were taken exclusively from the bone marrow. The harvest is carried out under general anaesthesia and involves repeated punctures on the iliac crest (so-called bone marrow puncture). Alternatively, stem cells can be obtained from the bloodstream via a special blood wash (leukapheresis) following pre-treatment with certain growth factors. This procedure does not require anaesthesia, but does need strong blood vessels that won’t pop when using large venous cannulae. In rare cases, stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood are also used.

Good to know: while people often only talk about „bone marrow transplantation“, there is also the so-called peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (PBSCT) and umbilical cord blood transplantation (CBT). For this reason, it is now correctly referred to as blood stem cell transplantation or haematopoietic stem cell transplantation, abbreviated as HSCT or SCT.

This text provides an overview on the topic of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation so that you can get an idea of this form of therapy and prepare for a future discussion with your child's transplant team. Since technical terms are often used in consultations with doctors, they are explained either directly in the text or in the glossary of the information portal.

This information is not a substitute for a detailed discussion with the treating phy-sicians on site. The individual characteristics of your child and their illness should be addressed in the personal consultation with the doctor, as well as any deviating practices in „your“ clinic that have proven to be particularly advantageous there.


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