A study of blood samples from patients of bone marrow transplants has yielded clues that could help fight cancers and auto-immune diseases.

B cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies, start their development in the bone marrow and complete it in blood and tissues.

The developmental process in humans can be studied in those who have had their bone marrow destroyed and then reconstituted from donors, because clinical samples are collected at defined periods of time following the transplant.

Doctoral student Santi Suryani and Stuart Tangye from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research (GIMC) have identified the process where the body gets rid of rogue B cells which see ‘self’ as the enemy and so allow the body to attack itself - as in autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

“By identifying exactly where B cells are in their stage of development, you can better understand and target specific B cell diseases,” said Tangye, according to a GIMC release.

These findings are online in the journal Blood.

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