1. Other than organ and tissue compatibility testing, what else is HLA gene and antigen testing used for?
Historically, HLA testing was used to help identify someone (forensic testing) or to determine if people were related (parentage testing), although now there are other, more specific molecular tests available for these purposes.
2. Are there reasons to test for a specific HLA gene allele?
Yes. Some HLA gene alleles are associated with certain diseases and autoimmune disorders. They are not diagnostic of the disorders but can be useful in helping to confirm or exclude a diagnosis. Relationships have also been documented between certain alleles and sensitivities to specific drugs. Associations include:
GVHD is a condition that occurs when the immune cells from transplanted donor bone marrow begin to attack the recipient's cells and tissues. The recipient's immune system does not initiate this response.
Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of bones that, in part, produces red blood cells (RBC) and white blood cells (WBC). In GVHD, one type of donor WBCs, T-lymphocytes, produce an immune response against "foreign" recipient cells and tissue. This condition can be mild or severe and sometimes can be life-threatening. It can be acute, occurring within 100 days after the transplant procedure, or can be chronic, typically developing over a longer period of time.
The greater the number of HLA allele matches between bone marrow donors and recipients, the less risk of developing GVHD. Sometimes the condition may be treated with immunosuppressive medications that decrease the immune response by the donor bone marrow.
This article was last reviewed on February 21, 2014. | This article was last modified on February 24, 2014.
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