Part III: Myeloma & Plasma Cells - Unwanted Guests

Somewhere down the line, perhaps the mother stem cell, or the daughter B-cell (there is a lot of current research looking for the source), becomes genetically damaged. This is not uncommon. In completely healthy people, cells are damaged all the time. But they’re usually considered duds and never manage to do any real harm.

In MM patients, however, the damaged B-cell efficiently creates plasma cells that have no real function, sometimes with and sometimes without instruction from the “thinker” T-cell (the brains in the family) to trigger or halt an immune response.

Sometimes the response is triggered appropriately, but no one is around to turn off the tap! Since the damaged plasma cells have nothing to do, they just keep replicating, over and over and over again. And since they never actually mature, they just keep hanging around the circulatory system for way too long, eventually crowding out many of our more useful blood cells.

In fact, we can think of myeloma cells as teenagers who never grow up, never get a job, never leave home, and bring more and more of their friends, exactly like themselves, over to the house – your body – forever.

The disease is called multiple myeloma because these immature plasma cells and their replica monoclonal immunoglobulin (monoclonal means one family) find all kinds of (multiple) places to hide (usually taking up residence in your bones). Eventually they become so plentiful that there is little room left for the much more useful stuff in your blood, generally leaving you feeling sore, tired, and weak. And since these cells are essentially proteins, and big, gangly ones at that, they tend to get stuck in the filtration tubules in kidneys, creating yet another problem for those experiencing multiple myeloma.