Aplastic anemia is a condition in which the bone marrow and the hematopoietic stem cells in it are destroyed. The hematopoietic stem cells are responsible for the production of the cellular components of the blood. This includes red blood cell, white blood cell, platelets and so on, In aplastic anemia, patients present with a significant drop in the production of these cells. This is why patients affected by this condition do have conditions such as pancytopenia; anemia, leukopenia, and thrombocytopenia. This is an uncommon blood disorder. This disease is more prevalent in people in their teen years, and also people in their twenties. It’s also common in elderly people. This disease can be caused by heredity, immune disease, chemical toxins, radiations, and medications. However, the cause of almost half of the cases is not known. Aplastic anemia is diagnosed by bone marrow biopsy. Usually, about 30-70% of the bone marrow of a healthy human is made up of stem cells, however, people affected by this disease have their stem cells replaced with fat. The disease can be treated with immunosuppressant medications. Stem cell therapy and exosomes are also effective ways of treating the disease.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Aplastic Anemia?
- Tiredness: This happens due to the reduced number of red blood cells associated with aplastic anemia. The red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen. A reduction in the number of red blood cells will lead to anemia, which eventually leads to easy fatigability.
- Increased and irregular heart rate: This is also known as tachycardia. Patients have a heart rate that is more than 100 beats per minute. Patients present with tachycardia, to compensate for the reduced amount of red blood cells.
- Skin pallor: Patients affected by aplastic anemia commonly presents with pale skin. This might be attributed to the reduced number of red cells and hemoglobin in the blood.
- Easy bleeding: This occurs due to thrombocytopenia. This is a condition in which the number of platelets in the blood is low. Aplastic anemia leads to thrombocytopenia which eventually which eventually leads to easy bleeding. Other conditions associated with thrombocytopenia include petechiae, prolonged bleeding, and hemoptysis
- Infections: Aplastic anemia leads to the deficiency of white blood cells. This exposes and predisposes the affected individual to diseases and infections. Patients might present with recurrent infections
- Skin diseases: Patient might present with skin diseases such as skin rash.
- Dizziness: This can be associated with anemia.
- Shortness of breath with exertion.
What Are The Causes Of Aplastic Anemia?
Although the cause of about half of all cases of aplastic anemia is unknown, genetics and environmental factors are responsible for the rest. The bone marrow is responsible for the production of the cellular components of the blood. It has the hematopoietic stem cells, that has the ability to give rise to another type of blood cells in the body, including red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelets. Below are some of the causes of aplastic anemia;
- Radiation: People who expose themselves to a large dosage of radiations are at a high risk of developing aplastic anemia. An example is the Chernobyl case in Ukraine, where the radiations from a bomb affected the people of the town, and surrounding communities. These radiations destroy the stem cells and the bone marrow of anyone affected.
- Chemotherapy: Medications used in the treatment of cancer are also capable of destroying the bone marrow.
- Chemical toxins: There are some chemicals that are capable of inducing the destruction of the bone marrow. Examples of this kind of chemicals include pesticides and insecticides.
- Medications: There are some drugs that lead to the development of aplastic anemia. Some of these medications are used in the treatment of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, some antibiotics have been implicated as a factor in aplastic anemia.
- Pregnancy: Aplastic anemia can be caused by an autoimmune disease during pregnancy. This occurs as a result of autoantibodies. These antibodies attack and destroy the stem cells and other components of the bone marrow, leading to aplastic anemia.
- Infections: There is some infectious disease that could lead to aplastic anemia. However, viral infections are the most common ones to lead to aplastic anemia. Some viruses that have been linked with this include Epstein-Barr virus, parvovirus, and cytomegalovirus.
- Other factors: Other factors that could lead to aplastic anemia. For example, viral hepatitis has been identified as a possible cause of the disorder. However, there are cases where doctors are not able to identify the cause of the disease. This is known as idiopathic aplastic anemia.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Aplastic Anemia?
Aplastic anemia is uncommon, however, there are some factors that increase the possibility of this disease occurring;
- Radiation: As mentioned earlier, people exposed to large amounts of radiations have a high chance of developing aplastic anemia.
- Chemotherapy: Patients undergoing treatments for cancer, have a high risk of developing aplastic anemia.
- Chemical toxins: People exposed to chemical toxins such as insecticide and pesticide have a high risk of developing this disease.
- Pregnancy: Although this is uncommon, autoantibodies might attack healthy cells and the bone marrow. Pregnancy tends to increase the risk of having aplastic anemia.
Prevention Of Aplastic Anemia
There is no specific prevention of aplastic anemia. However, avoiding excessive exposure to insecticides, pesticides, and chemical toxin reduces the risk of having the disease.
Stem Cell Therapy And Aplastic Anemia
Stem cells have been in use for the treatment of aplastic anemia for a long time. Stem cells can be gotten from a donor if the patient has severe aplastic anemia. Stem cells are unique cells that are capable of self-regeneration and proliferation. Hematopoietic stem cells are gotten from a donor, processed, and then injected intravenously to the patient, the recipient. The patients are usually given some medications to suppress the immune system and reduce the risk of rejection.
Alebouyeh, M. (2005). PEDIATRIC HEMATOLOGY AND ONCOLOGY IN IRAN. Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, 22(1), pp.1-9.
Bociek, R. (2005). Adult Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Clinical Lymphoma, 6(1), pp.11-20.
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PEDIATRIC HEMATOLOGY/ONCOLOGY. (1998). Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, 20(2), p.183.Get More Stem Cell Information at iSTEMCELL