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Am J Hematol. 2000 Oct;65(2):123-31.

Sustained long-term hematologic recovery despite a marked quantitative defect in the stem cell compartment of patients with aplastic anemia after immunosuppressive therapy.

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Hematology Branch, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Previously, we reported that patients with aplastic anemia (AA) have profoundly decreased numbers of hematopoietic progenitor and stem cells as measured in the long-term culture initiating cell (LTC-IC) assay (Blood 1996;88:1983-1991). We now present results of a long-term prospective study of LTC-IC numbers in peripheral blood (PB) and bone marrow (BM) of patients treated with antithymocyte globulin and cyclosporin A. Numbers of secondary colony forming cells (secondary CFC) in long-term bone marrow culture (LTBMC) were used to quantitate LTC-IC. BM (N = 35) and PB (N = 41) secondary CFC from both untreated severe AA patients and responders to immunosuppressive therapy who were sampled up to 6 years after initial treatment were compared. Normal controls showed 148 +/- 38 (N = 17) and 16 +/- 3 (N= 14) secondary CFC per 10(6) in BM and PB, respectively. In cross-sectional analysis, prior to therapy, AA patients showed 2.6 +/- 1 (mean +/- SD) secondary CFC/10(6) BM MNC; within the first year after initial treatment (N = 14), secondary CFC number rose modestly to 8.2 +/- 2.2/10(6) MNC, and further increased to 15.8 +/- 7 (N = 17) at 2 years and 16.2 +/- 7/10(6) MNC (N = 25) 3 years after treatment. There was no further improvement in the secondary CFC numbers at 4, 5, and > or =6 years (N = 37). Thus, while BM secondary CFC increased about 6-fold at 3 years post-therapy compared to presentation, they remained about only 10% of normal despite hematologic recovery. Similar data were obtained for PB, with approximately 4-fold increase in secondary CFC numbers within 2 years of therapy, to about 15% of normal values. We confirmed these observations in patients studied serially over a period of 4 years: initial secondary CFC were 2.35 +/- 1/10(6) BM MNC and 0.11 +/- 0.1/10(6) PB MNC improving to an average of 6 +/- 1. 2 (BM; N = 12) and 2.4 +/- 1/10(6) MNC (PB; N = 14). In many cases of partial recovery, PB counts improve but do not normalize. When we studied secondary CFC numbers only in patients who achieved complete normalization of PB counts (ANC >1,500/mm(3); platelets >10(5)/mm(3) and absolute reticulocytes >5 x 10(4)/mm(3)), BM secondary CFC were significantly higher than in patients with partial recovery; the PB secondary CFC number was modestly increased but remained below the normal values. Within the group of patients with complete recovery, there was no correlation between the secondary CFC and time after initial treatment. In addition, there also was no correlation between the secondary CFC number at presentation and the quality of hematopoietic recovery. Despite a limited expansion potential of a severely reduced stem cell pool, their numbers are sufficient to provide a long-term supply of mature blood cells. Am. J. Hematol. 65:123-131, 2000. Published 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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