Human leukocyte antigens HLA

Every individual has proteins, called human leukocyte antigens (HLA), on the surface of their cells. These proteins allow the persons immune system to distinguish the body's own cells from those of another person. There is a strong association of some HLA types with a persons ethnic background. Scientists look at six (or eight) HLA antigens to determine a persons HLA type. Two people are considered to be a match if all six (or eight) antigens are identical. If one or more sites do not match, it is called a mismatch or partial match. Marrow from a donor that matches only half of the antigens is called a haploidentical match.

Half of a persons HLA genes are inherited from each parent. Since there are four possible combinations of parental genes, a child has one chance in four (a 25 percent chance) of being matched with a sibling who has the same parents. This pattern of inheritance explains why parents are only rarely (1 percent of the time) matched with their children. More distant relatives are even less likely to be a match, since they are more likely to have different HLA genes. The odds of obtaining a match from an unrelated person were once slim. However, due to the rapid expansion of persons typed and listed on various national and international marrow registries, a complete or partial match can be found for almost 70 percent of patients.

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