Background Treatment with natalizumab, an antibody blocking the α4-integrin, is associated with increased numbers of circulating CD34+ cells in the peripheral blood of patients with multiple sclerosis.
Objective To determine whether natalizumab mobilizes CD34+ cells from or inhibits homing to the bone marrow (BM).
Design Fifty-two patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis treated with natalizumab were included. Flow cytometric analyses; polymerase chain reaction assays for JC (John Cunningham) virus DNA detection; and adhesion, migration, and apoptosis assays of immunomagnetically enriched peripheral blood and BM CD34+ cells were conducted. A comparison was made with CD34+ cells from granulocyte colony-stimulating factor–mobilized peripheral blood or steady-state BM of age- and sex-matched healthy donors.
Results We found adhesion and migration of peripheral blood–derived CD34+ cells to be reduced. In BM aspirates from natalizumab-treated patients, the cellularity, the proportion, and the adhesive capacity of CD34+ cells were normal. The JC virus was undetectable.
Conclusions Natalizumab mediates an increase in circulating CD34+ cells by interfering with homing to the BM. Thus, CD34+ cells appear unlikely to represent a source mobilizing JC virus out of the BM in patients treated with natalizumab.