Sometimes, when doctors perform a transplant, more characters than are believed pass from one individual to the other.
This is the case of a 46-year-old patient, who received a bone marrow transplant from his sister, thanks to which he was able to save his life; but also to become allergic to kiwi, like her.
It is the first time that a similar case has been observed and, beyond being simply anecdotal, it can help investigators to better understand the mechanism by which allergies originate and, thus, to find a more efficient way of treating them than those known so far.
What is a bone marrow transplant?
In the marrow there are two types of stem cells. On the one hand, there are the mesenchymal stem cells, which will give rise to all kinds of skeletal cells, like you are, the muscular ones or those of the cartilage.
On the other hand, there is also Hematopoietic stem cells, which are all those that will give rise to blood cells; that is to say, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
When a person is affected by a blood related illness, such as leukemia, have a abnormal count of blood cells, so the most effective treatment usually involves performing a bone marrow transplant, consisting of replacing defective blood cell precursors with those of other healthy people.
Although until recently, these cells were obtained from the marrow belately they are beginning to be extracted directly from the healthy people blood, since they also contain this type of stem cells and, in addition, the process of obtaining them is less invasive.
How could this man become allergic after a transplant?
The patient of 46 years oldsuffered leukemia; so, after verifying that he was compatible with his sister, he proceeded to marrow transplantation.
It was all a success; but, shortly after, the man went to eat a kiwi and, after the first bites, began to feel the typical allergy symptoms. He had never been allergic to this fruit, but his sister did, so it seemed clear what had happened.
Allergies occur when, when in contact with a specific substance, our immune system (which includes white blood cells that are renewed from the stem cells) recognizes it how strange and destroys it, giving rise to a set of symptoms that can be very dangerous if left untreated.
Sister's stem cells recognize the kiwi as a stranger and when they came into contact with the patient's, they transmitted this signal to them, so that their entire organism turned against the poor fruit.
In some very rare cases, allergy transmissions have been observed after performing blood transfusions during a surgery. For example, there was the case of a boy who, in this way, became allergic to peanuts, although the allergy subsided a short time later.
This is because the blood cells you received were substituted, since the young man kept his own Hematopoietic stem cells. However, in the case of these two brothers, the transmission was due to the stem cells, which from that moment replaced all the blood cells of the man, so there was no possibility of remission.
Why is this discovery so important?
Beyond being anecdotal, this discovery can help doctors and researchers in two ways.
On the one hand, it is already known that there is the possibility of transmitting allergies and must be checked after transplant, to advise the patient in case there are new foods or substances with which he cannot come into contact.
In addition, if allergies can be transmitted through a stem cell transplant, they may also help treat them. Therefore, the allergic reaction that this man showed when trying to eat a kiwi has opened the door to new research that could find a cure for those allergies that, in addition to being annoying, can be very dangerous.
That's the science. Many great discoveries take place simply by chance. So it is necessary to be attentive to all the details.
Medulla Image: Biosphere Project