Volume 4 Supplement 1

22nd European Workshop for Rheumatology Research

Open Access

Long term immune reconstitution after immunoablation and autologous CD34 cell therapy in autoimmune diseases

  • AT Thiel1,
  • A Thiel1,
  • T Alexander1,
  • O Rosen2,
  • E Gromnica-Ihle3,
  • GR Burmester4,
  • R Arnold2,
  • F Hiepe4 and
  • A Radbruch1
Arthritis Research & Therapy20024(Suppl 1):107

DOI: 10.1186/ar442

Received: 15 January 2002

Published: 4 February 2002


Immunoablation in combination with autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) is used as a therapy for severe autoimmune diseases. We have analysed reconstitution of the immune system in patients treated with ASCT.


During a follow-up period of up to 42 months after ASCT, one polychondritis and two systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients in clinical remission were analysed for reappearance of naive, activated and memory B and T lymphocytes, for reactivity against pathogens and autoantigens, and for presence of autoantibodies. Titers of disease-specific autoantibodies decreased after ASCT with the half-life of secreted antibodies, and did not reappear. NaiveT and naive Bcells reappeared and reached normal levels within one year after ASCT. T cells activated and expanded by pathogens were easily detectable, but not T cells reacting to any of an array of autoantigens tested, in a cytometric cytokine provocation test. A third SLE patient suffered from a relapse of disease after being free of any clinical and serological symptoms for 17 months. In this patient, autoantibodies with old (anti-dsDNA antibodies) and new specificities (anti-Sm and anti-U1RNP antibodies) appeared upon relapse. A sudden decrease of peripheral naive and increase of peripheral memory B and Th cells preceeded the relapse.


ASCT for autoimmune diseases can result in longlasting remissions. According to frequencies and phenotypes of naive lymphocytes, the reconstituted immune system resembles a 'juvenile' immune system. Our results reveal that autoreactive and plasma cells do not survive the therapy but protective immune memory has to be re-established.

Authors’ Affiliations

DRFZ Berlin
Haematology, Charité
Rheumaklinik, Berlin-Buch
Rheumatology, Charité


© BioMed Central Ltd 2002