Groundbreaking research could lead to better outcomes for post-transplant patients
Approximately 16,000 people in the United States develop a fatal blood disease, such as leukemia or aplastic anemia, each year. Bone marrow transplantation provides a chance for a cure for these patients. However, the procedure can have deadly consequences. The body's immune system is destroyed during the transplant, and the recovery is usually delayed for several years. Consequently, up to 20 percent of allogeneic bone marrow transplant patients die of infectious complications.
Dr. Erhan Gokmen, assistant professor in the department of medicine, is developing strategies to increase the speed of immune recovery after transplantation. The National Bone Marrow Donor Program awarded him a three-year, $240,000 grant to complete his work.
"The main focus of my research is to identify the pathways of immune recovery after transplant," Dr. Gokmen said. "It is important to understand how immune cells recover. Once we identify how they regenerate, we can design therapeutic strategies in a rational way to make them recover faster."
Specifically, Dr. Gokmen is studying the B cell compartment of the immune system. B cells are part of the body's "adaptive immune system," meaning they provide more specific and higher-level protection against infections. Dr. Gokmen said understanding how B cells regenerate could lead to simple treatments, such as the vaccination of donors prior to a transplant, that enable bone marrow patients to better fight off infection.
Dr. Gokmen is one of the only doctors in the United States studying B cell regeneration. He expects to have the preliminary results of his work in about a year.