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Aplastic Anemia

A condition in which the bone marrow is unable to produce blood cells.

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(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia (a-PLAS-tik uh-NEE-me-uh) is a blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells. Bone marrow is a sponge-like tissue inside the bones. It makes stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (PLATE-lets).

Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. They also carry carbon dioxide (a waste product) to your lungs to be exhaled. White blood cells help your body fight infections. Platelets are blood cell fragments that stick together to seal small cuts or breaks on blood vessel walls and stop bleeding.

It's normal for blood cells to die. The lifespan of red blood cells is about 120 days. White blood cells live less than a day. Platelets live about 6 days. As a result, your bone marrow must constantly make new blood cells.

If your bone marrow can't make enough new blood cells, many health problems can... Read more about Aplastic Anemia NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Stem cell transplantation in acquired severe aplastic anaemia: Executive summary of final report N05-03B, Version 1.0

The aim of this review was the evaluation of studies on allogeneic stem cell transplantation with an unrelated donor vs. immunosuppressive therapy in patients with acquired severe aplastic anaemia. The focus of the evaluation was on patient-relevant therapy goals.

Effectiveness and safety of cyclosporine A for aplastic anemia in China: a meta-analysis

Bibliographic details: Wu B, Lu J, Li T P, Tang Y.  Effectiveness and safety of cyclosporine A for aplastic anemia in China: a meta-analysis . Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2008; 8(11): 1001-1006

Stem cell transplantation of sibling donors compared with specific immunosuppressive therapy for acquired severe aplastic anemia

Acquired severe aplastic anemia is rare. Stem cells from the bone marrow usually replace naturally dying blood cells in the peripheral blood. Severe aplastic anemia is probably caused by an irregular, attacking immune response against these blood producing stem cells within the body. If supplies are not maintained, functional blood cells are lacking and infections, bleeding, and exhaustion will occur. Patients may experience paleness, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Disease progression is associated with severe infections, which are a major cause of death.

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Summaries for consumers

Stem cell transplantation of sibling donors compared with specific immunosuppressive therapy for acquired severe aplastic anemia

Acquired severe aplastic anemia is rare. Stem cells from the bone marrow usually replace naturally dying blood cells in the peripheral blood. Severe aplastic anemia is probably caused by an irregular, attacking immune response against these blood producing stem cells within the body. If supplies are not maintained, functional blood cells are lacking and infections, bleeding, and exhaustion will occur. Patients may experience paleness, weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Disease progression is associated with severe infections, which are a major cause of death.

Eculizumab for treating patients with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria

We reviewed the evidence about the effects of eculizumab for treating patients with paroxsymal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.

The optimum transfusion strategy for anaemic patients with bone marrow failure disorders receiving supportive treatment

A restrictive transfusion policy involves giving a red blood cell transfusion if the oxygen‐carrying capacity of blood (haemoglobin) falls below a certain level. A liberal transfusion policy involves giving a red blood cell transfusion at a higher haemoglobin level.

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Terms to know

Blood Plasma
The clear, yellowish, fluid part of the blood that carries the blood cells. The proteins that form blood clots are in plasma.
Bone Marrow
The soft, sponge-like tissue in the center of most bones. It produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
Cells
The basic subunit of any living organism; the simplest unit capable of independent life. Although there are some single-celled organisms, such as bacteria, most organisms consist of many cells that are specialized for particular functions.
Erythrocytes (Red Blood Cells)
A cell that carries oxygen to all parts of the body.
Hematopoietic Stem Cells (Blood Stem Cells)
A stem cell that gives rise to all red and white blood cells and platelets.
Leukocytes (White Blood Cells)
A type of immune cell. Most white blood cells are made in the bone marrow and are found in the blood and lymph tissue. White blood cells help the body fight infections and other diseases. Granulocytes, monocytes, and lymphocytes are white blood cells.
Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH)
A rare disorder in which red blood cells are easily destroyed by certain immune system proteins. Symptoms include blood clots, and red or brownish urine in the morning. Aplastic anemia (decreased production of blood cells) may lead to PNH, and people with PNH are at increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia. Also called PNH.
Platelets (Thrombocytes)
A tiny piece of cell that is made by breaking off of a large cell in the bone marrow. Platelets are found in the blood and spleen. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding, and to help wounds heal. Also called thrombocyte.
Stem Cells
A cell from which other types of cells develop. For example, blood cells develop from blood-forming stem cells.

More about Aplastic Anemia

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Also called: Aplastic anaemia

Other terms to know: See all 9
Blood Plasma, Bone Marrow, Cells

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