Aplastic anemia is an autoimmune disease in which the body fails to produce blood cells in sufficient numbers. Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow by stem cells that reside there. Aplastic anaemia causes a deficiency of all blood cell types: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
It is more frequent in people in their teens and twenties, but is also common among the elderly. It can be caused by heredity, immune disease, or exposure to chemicals, drugs, or radiation. However, in about one-half of cases, the cause is unknown.
The definitive diagnosis is by bone marrow biopsy; normal bone marrow has 30–70% blood stem cells, but in aplastic anaemia, these cells are mostly gone and replaced by fat.
First line treatment for aplastic anaemia consists of immunosuppressive drugs, typically either anti-lymphocyte globulin or anti-thymocyte globulin, combined with corticosteroids, chemotherapy and ciclosporin. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is also used, especially for patients under 30 years of age with a related matched marrow donor.
The disease is also known as the cause of death of Eleanor Roosevelt and Marie Curie.