Causes of myelofibrosis?

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Myelofibrosis occurs when red blood stem cells mutate and cause scarring in the bone marrow. The cause of the mutation is unknown, but risk factors include pre-existing blood cell disease, exposure to certain chemicals, and age. The mutation is believed to occur in stem cells and can be triggered by certain blood disorders. Toluene exposure is also a risk factor. The condition is most common in individuals aged 50 and older.

Patients develop myelofibrosis – also known as chronic hepatic myelofibrosis and myeloid metaplasia – when red blood stem cells in the bone marrow mutate, eventually causing the marrow to scar. Researchers have yet to determine the exact cause of the mutation, although several risk factors for developing the disorder have been identified. Studies have found that a significant number of myelofibrosis patients had pre-existing blood cell disease. Experts believe that exposure to certain chemicals and types of radiation can also increase your risk of developing myelofibrosis. Age could also be a factor, as most cases occur in individuals 50 years of age and older.

The genetic mutation involved in myelofibrosis occurs in stem cells found in the bone marrow; under normal circumstances, these cells develop into red blood cells. An unknown trigger causes cells to malfunction, severely limiting red blood cell production, which in turn causes anemia. The stem cells then divide; any new cells formed by division also carry the mutation, eventually spreading throughout the bone marrow. A shortage of red blood cells and an excess of white blood cells can cause scar tissue to develop in the bone marrow, a hallmark symptom of myelofibrosis.

Although the cause of the mutation is generally unknown, researchers believe that certain blood disorders increase a patient’s risk of developing myelofibrosis. Polycythemia vera, a disease in which red blood cells proliferate at abnormally high rates, tends to increase the likelihood that a mutation will occur and spread in the cells. Essential thrombocytosis, in which the bone marrow produces an overabundance of platelets, similarly increases risk.

Another risk factor associated with myelofibrosis is overexposure to certain industrial chemicals. Toluene, a commonly used chemical solvent, has been identified as a substance that could lead to the development of the condition. The chemical is used in many industrial procedures including cementing polystyrene, dissolving paint, and even in the production of cola syrup. The amounts individuals are exposed to in everyday life are generally considered safe, however, unsafe exposure is a rarity.

A significant number of patients diagnosed with myelofibrosis fall into the 50 to 70 age group, leading some experts to believe that age plays a factor in its development. Older bone marrow may be more prone to the mutation, although it’s not clear how. Individuals aged 50 and older may also have been exposed to chemical risk factors more than younger people, indicating the possibility that the effects of exposure to harmful chemicals may be cumulative.

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