What is HLA Typing and what is its Purpose?

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HLA Typing

HLA typing is a type of genetic test used to identify specific differences in a person’s immune system. The procedure is crucial for determining who can safely donate bone marrow, cord blood, or an organ to a transplant recipient. Human leukocyte antigen is generally often abbreviated to HLA. HLA matching is another term for HLA typing.

The Purpose of HLA Typing

The most common reason for HLA typing is to assess who is most suited to do tissue transplants safely (solid organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation). Potential tissue receivers and anybody who might desire to give tissue must have the type. This might include family members of someone who need a transplant.

People can also volunteer to have their HLA type entered into a bone marrow registry in the hopes of receiving stem cell transplants. HLA typing can also be done on terminally ill people or have recently died and will be serving as organ donors. The greatest donors have HLA patterns that closely match the recipient’s HLA patterns. This increases the likelihood that the transplant will effectively cure your condition and reduces the chance of post-transplant problems, such as organ rejection. 

After the transplant, some patients may need to have a component of HLA typing done to check if their bodies are producing antibodies to the transplanted tissue. This might indicate that organ rejection is occurring, and the transplant may not be successful.

How Does It Work?

The HLA system is a collection of linked genes that play a key function in the immune system. The proteins produced by these genes combine to form the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). These proteins are found on virtually all of your body’s cells. HLA proteins can be seen as different coloured threads floating off the cell as an analogy. Our own cells, for example, are trained to detect a certain pattern of string colours that we own. 

A cell with an orange HLA protein string would set off warning bells in an immune cell. This alerts the cell to the possibility of encountering something potentially harmful, such as a virus. This might cause the cell to be attacked by the immune system. In immunological defence, the HLA system plays a critical role. It does, however, aid in determining who can effectively give and receive tissue. The immune system may attack and destroy donated tissue if it recognizes it as alien. That’s why it’s critical that patients get donated tissue that has as many HLA proteins as feasible.

HLA Typing Procedure

HLA typing is a test that determines which HLA genes you have inherited (i.e., your string colors). Because there are so many distinct HLA genes and variants of these genes, there are various colour combinations that make up your HLA type. 

Antibodies to certain HLA proteins are generally tested as part of HLA typing. Antibodies are produced by an immune system component. If a person already possesses an antibody against an HLA protein, the transplanted protein may be attacked. This might result in the transplant failing. In general, if you have an antibody against one of their HLA proteins, you should not get a transplant from them.

Similarly, lymphocyte cross-matching is frequently included in HLA typing. Immune cells, known as lymphocytes, are a kind of lymphocyte. Lymphocyte cross-matching determines whether or not the recipient has an antibody to a protein found on the donor’s lymphocytes. If this is the case, that individual should not get a transplant from that person. These patients are at a high risk of having a failed transplant.

How is HLA Typing Performed?

HLA typing is a genetic test that determines your ethnicity. You’ll need to provide a tissue sample for the test. A swab from inside your cheek or a blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm is generally used. In most cases, there is no need to prepare for the test. The sample will very certainly need to be submitted to a specialist lab for testing. Because HLA typing is not a frequent blood test, you should check with your insurance provider ahead of time to see if it is covered and how much it will cost.

When Should People be Tested?

  • The treating doctor may wish to use this test to assess the compatibility of the donor tissue prior to a bone marrow transplant or an organ transplant.
  • Following the transplant, the doctor can use the Chimerism test to determine the exact amount of immunomodulators needed.

Conditions that necessitate the use of a transplant

There are a variety of medical problems that may need the use of a transplant. Stem cell transplantation, for example, is used to treat a variety of blood malignancies and hereditary blood diseases. For example, it is a curative therapy for sickle cell disease. Any critical organ that has been badly damaged may require a solid organ transplant. Trauma, infection, autoimmune disease, hereditary sickness, toxins, and various other disease processes can all contribute to this. If one’s own organs aren’t working properly, a kidney, liver, or lung transplant may be required. A transplant is frequently the final resort for a medical cure.

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