Autoimmune diseases and autoimmunity post-bone marrow transplantation

Y. Sherer, Y. Shoenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


BMT can both transmit and eliminate autoimmune diseases, and hence it has been suggested as an optional treatment for severe autoimmune conditions. In this communication we deal with the question of whether chronic GVHD is an autoimmune disease in itself, review the literature reports of autoimmune diseases following BMT in humans, and describe the autoimmune nature of the post-BMT state. Chronic GVHD, which is a frequent complication post-BMT, has clinical and pathogenic characteristics similar to autoimmune diseases, such as scleroderma and Sjogren's syndrome. Although the pathogenesis of chronic GVHD is not yet clear, thymic damage induced by acute GVHD may contribute to both the immunodeficiency and autoimmunity characterising chronic GVHD. A similar phenomenon is syngeneic GVHD, which results from an imbalance between autoreactive and autoregulatory lymphocytes. Additionally, other autoimmune diseases have been reported in post-BMT patients, and among these the most common are hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, myasthenia gravis and immune cytopenias. Although these diseases also occur also outside the post-BMT setting, they are unique with respect to pathogenesis (no association between myasthenia gravis and thymic pathology), diagnosis (symptoms of hyperthyroidism may be inadvertently related to other conditions), and prognosis (post-BMT autoimmune cytopenias may be fatal and treatment non-responsive). Nevertheless, many other autoimmune diseases have been reported after BMT, and these are mainly presented as case reports. Regarding the mechanism of post-BMT autoimmunity, the minority of cases stem from donor-related transfer of pathogenic lymphocytes or their progenitors, while most of the cases (either chronic GVHD or specific diseases) can be attributed to the immunologic imbalances characterising the post-BMT setting. The factors that may expose an individual to autoimmunity development post-BMT include genetic predisposition, an environmental factor such as CMV, and the nature of the donor who may aid in creating microchimerism and subsequently chronic GVHD and its related autoimmune manifestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-881
Number of pages9
JournalBone Marrow Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoimmune cytopenias
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Myasthenia gravis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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