Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is being increasingly utilized for the treatment of a whole spectrum of severe autoimmune diseases refractory to conventional therapy. Although allogeneic HSCT has been followed by durable complete remission in a restricted number of patients with coincidental disease, the autologous procedure is generally preferred because of its lesser toxicity. Most autoimmune diseases are the consequence of a multistep process, mainly originating from the interplay of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. It has been postulated that if immunosuppressive regimens can eliminate or effectively reduce the level of autoreactive T and B cells, then regeneration of de novo immunity even in the autologous setting may bypass the initial breakdown of self-tolerance and ensure prolonged disease remission. As mentioned in a recent review of this field, protocol design including conditioning regimen, patient selection, stem cell source and final outcome are likely to be disease-specific. The following is a summary of the 2002 International Bone Marrow Transplantation Registry/American Society of Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation (IBMTR/ASBMT) satellite symposium in Orlando, Florida on 24 February 2002 on Expanding the Promise of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Autoimmune Diseases.
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