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Transfus Med. 2003 Dec;13(6):377-86.

Stem cells in paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria and aplastic anaemia: increasing evidence for overlap of haemopoietic defect.

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  • 1Department of Haematology, St George's Hospital Medical School, London, UK.


The clinical association between paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) and aplastic anaemia (AA) has long been recognized. Haemolytic PNH, as confirmed by a positive Ham's test, can occur in the setting of AA, and conversely AA can be a late complication of PNH. With the development of sensitive flow cytometry to quantify the expression of phosphatidylinositolglycan (PIG)-anchored proteins on blood cells, a small PNH clone can now be detected in a large number of patients with AA at diagnosis. PIG-A gene mutations can also be demonstrated in some AA patients. In haemolytic PNH, there is always marrow suppression despite a morphologically cellular marrow. In vitro cultures show markedly diminished proliferative capacity in both short-term and long-term marrow cultures, similar to that seen in AA. A similar autoimmune process, through the T-cell cytotoxic repertoire, is probably responsible for the pathogenesis of both AA and PNH. PIG-deficient cells may be resistant to immunological attack by autoreactive cytotoxic T cells, because they lack PIG. They are also more resistant to apoptosis than the PIG-normal cell population. This results in the selection of the PIG-deficient clone, in contrast to the PIG-normal stem cells which possess the PIG anchor and hence are targeted and depleted by the autoreactive T cells.

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