Bektas M, Copley-Merriman C, Khan S, Sarda SP, Shammo JM. Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria: role of the complement system, pathogenesis, and pathophysiology. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2020 Dec;26(12-b Suppl):S3-8. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2020.26.12-b.s3

The complement system is part of the innate immune response system, which comprises more than 50 distinct plasma and serum proteins that interact to opsonize pathogens (i.e., mark pathogens for destruction) and induce inflammatory responses to fight infection. The role of the complement system is 2-fold: immune surveillance and host defense. Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is a rare, chronic, acquired, hematologic disease caused by somatic mutations in the gene PIGA in the hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells produce abnormal clone blood cells that lack the complement regulatory proteins CD55 and CD59, causing the body to recognize these otherwise healthy red blood cells as damaged. The complement system destroys cells without these protective proteins, resulting in general hemolysis. PNH is characterized by fatigue; hemolytic anemia that can be severe and debilitating; increased lactic dehydrogenase level, reticulocyte count, and bilirubin level; propensity for thrombotic events; and renal dysfunction. Epidemiologic data, while sparse, suggest that an estimated 5,000-6,000 individuals in the United States are affected by PNH. If left untreated, PNH has a 10-year mortality rate of 29%, although the natural history of this disease has been recently altered by the introduction of complement inhibitors for the treatment of PNH.

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