An international team led by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that targeting certain donor cells lowered the risk of organ rejection in mice that underwent kidney and heart transplants. The study results, published today in Nature Communications, could lead to new ways of preventing or treating organ transplant rejection in humans.
“The success of organ transplantation has reached a plateau over the past 10 or 20 years, with a significant proportion of patients still losing their grafts to rejection despite immunosuppressive treatment,” said Fadi Lakkis, M.D., Frank & Athena Sarris Chair in Transplantation Biology, professor of surgery, immunology and surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, scientific director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute and co-author of the study. “New methods to tackle rejection are needed, and this discovery is another step toward finding a solution.”
Without immunosuppressive treatment, transplanted organs are quickly rejected by the recipient’s immune system—in particular, by T cells. Successful engraftment has traditionally relied upon preventing the activation of T cells in the lymph nodes and spleen or in the graft by administering anti-rejection drugs. If T cell activation does occur, stopping rejection becomes increasingly difficult.
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