International Day of Immunology

IHMRI celebrates the work of Immunologists in Graft-Versus-Host Disease (GVHD)

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a potentially life-threatening complication of blood stem cell transplants, a therapy for blood cancers. Blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, are cancers of the immune system and are common in both children and adults.

Like most cancers, blood cancers are usually treated using chemotherapy or radiotherapy, but when these therapies aren’t successful, blood stem cell transplants are attempted. This transplant therapy seeks to replace the patient’s diseased bone marrow, with healthy cells from a matching donor to generate new, cancer-free bone marrow and a working immune system.

For International Day of Immunology, IHMRI is recognising the work of immunologists Dr Nicholas Geraghty, Dr Debbie Watson and Professor Ronald Sluyter.

Celebrated each year on April 29, the day is dedicated to increasing global awareness of the importance of immunology in the fight against infection, autoimmunity and cancer. 

The IHMRI team have recently published a paper in Immunology and Cell Biology taking a closer look at what causes the transferred stem cells to reject the host.

When blood from healthy donors is transplanted into a patient, in some cases the transplanted immune cells recognise the host cells as foreign causing them to attack healthy tissues which leads to GVHD.

Professor Sluyter, Dr Watson and Dr Geraghty have taken a closer look at the mechanism of GVHD to determine why the damaged host cells release a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

“So in GVHD, instead of the body rejecting the transplant, the transplant rejects the body. As part of the disease, the damaged “host” cells release an immune molecule, called  (ATP), which can activate the “graft” immune cells to promote inflammation and damage the recipient’s tissues such as the liver, gut and skin,” said Dr Geraghty.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is an organic compound that is often called the “energy currency of the cell”. Every cell uses ATP for energy.

“This recent publication along with previous studies suggest that the ATP activates a molecule on immune cells called P2X7 which promotes GVHD. Therapies that can block P2X7 may limit or prevent GVHD in people with blood cancer after stem cell transplants,” he added.

Read the publication:

Watch the video:

What Makes Immune Cells Attack Healthy Tissues in Graft-Versus-Host Disease:

Read more:

Immunology & Cell Biology 

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

m: 0417 044 867


Photo: Dr Nicholas Geraghty, Professor Ron Sluyter, Neil Pennock and Dr Debbie Watson

You may also like

IHMRI Researcher named as Superstar of STEM
Understanding male and female responses to COVID-19
How do our hormones contribute to our personality?