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Blood. 2013 Mar 7;121(10):1906-10. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-09-456590. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

The central nervous system is a target of acute graft versus host disease in mice.

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Immunology Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, USA.


Despite significant advances in prevention and management, graft versus host disease (GVHD) is still a leading complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). Although skin, gut, liver, thymus, and lung are GVHD targets, neurological complications (NC) have also been reported following allo-HSCT. We demonstrate that the central nervous system (CNS) can be a direct target of alloreactive T cells following allo-HSCT in mice. We found significant infiltration of the CNS with donor T lymphocytes and cell death of neurons and neuroglia in allo-HSCT recipients with GVHD. We also found that allo-HSCT recipients with GVHD had deficits in spatial learning/memory and demonstrated increased anxious behavior. These findings highlight CNS sensitivity to damage caused by alloreactive donor T cells and represent the first characterization of target cell subsets and NC during GVHD. Therefore, these clinically relevant studies offer a novel and rational explanation for the well-described neurological symptoms observed after allo-HSCT.

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