Gamma globulins are a class of proteins in the blood, identified by their position after serum protein electrophoresis. The most significant gamma globulins are immunoglobulins ("Igs"), more commonly known as antibodies, although some Igs are not gamma globulins, and some gamma globulins are not Igs.
Gamma globulin injections are usually given in an attempt to temporarily boost a patient's immunity against disease. Injections are most commonly used on patients who have been exposed to hepatitis A or measles, or to make a kidney donor and recipient compatible regardless of blood type of tissue match. Injections are also used to boost immunity in patients who cannot produce gamma globulins naturally because of an immune deficiency, such as X-linked agammaglobulinemia and hyper IgM syndrome. Such injections are less common in modern medical practice than they were previously, and injections of gamma globulin previously recommended for travelers have largely been replaced by the use of hepatitis A vaccine.
Gamma globulin infusions are also used to treat immunological diseases, such as idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP), a disease in which the platelets are being attacked by antibodies, leading to seriously low platelet counts. Gamma globulin apparently causes the spleen to ignore the antibody-tagged platelets, thus allowing them to survive and function.
A recent clinical trial of gamma globulin in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients had no recognizable benefit, while an older trial showed improvement. The success of this treatment remains uncertain.
Another theory on how gamma globulin administration works in autoimmune disease is by overloading the mechanisms which degrade gamma globulins. Overloading the degradation mechanism causes the harmful gamma globulins to have a much shorter halflife in sera.
A disease of gamma globulins is called a "gammopathy" (for example, in monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance.)
Kidney Transplant: Intravenous Gamma globulin was FDA approved in 2004 to reduce antibodies in a patient with kidney failure to allow that person to accept a kidney from a donor who has a different blood type, (ABO incompatible) or is an unacceptable tissue match. Dr. Stanley Jordan at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles pioneered this treatment.
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