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Understanding which immune cells make GvHD aggressive and resistant to treatment

Graft versus host disease is a dangerous complication of stem or bone marrow transplant. In this project, Professor Ronjon Chakraverty wants to understand more about why this develops and what can be done to stop it.

The challenge

One of the complications that can result from a stem cell or bone marrow transplant is graft versus host disease (GvHD), which affects around one in every two patients. In GvHD, T cells (a type of white blood cell) from the donated stem cells or bone marrow recognise the recipient’s cells as ‘foreign’ and attack them causing skin rashes, diarrhoea and liver damage.GvHD can often be treated with drugs called steroids, that dampen the immune response. But some people don’t respond to this treatment and can become very unwell or even die.

The project

Professor Ronjon Chakraverty and his team at University College London want to understand how these T cells turn on the patient’s own cells and why they do not respond to steroid treatments. They have identified a pathway that they think might be involved in this process and will switch this pathway off to see if this reverses the effects of GvHD.

The future

The hope is that but understanding how T cells attack healthy cells and develop resistance to steroid treatment, this could help researchers find better ways of treating GvHD