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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 17:35 EDT

Promising News For Transplant Patients

May 20, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire)””Cells found naturally in the body may help prevent the rejection of an organ transplant. Research shows new cell therapy could also eliminate a transplant patient’s need for life-long medication and could help their transplant last longer.

Currently patients have to take immunosuppressant drugs to prevent a new organ from being rejected after transplant. Unfortunately, these drugs also suppress the immune system leaving the patient more susceptible to tumors and infections.

Researchers at King’s College London say a new technique that uses regulatory T cells (Tregs), from the body could eliminate the need for immunosuppression. According to the research team, the Tregs used will only suppress the activity of those cells that will attack the new organ, rather than suppress the whole immune system. Researchers say the approach could extend the life of a transplanted organ and could subsequently alleviate the organ shortage problem.

“This study is a promising step forward that could lead to dramatic advances in preventing organ rejection and improving the quality of life of transplant patients,” Robert Lechler, Professor and Vice-Principal for Health at King’s and Executive Director of King’s Health Partners, was quoted as saying.

Tregs control the activity of many different immune cells, including T effector cells. These T effector cells are responsible for mounting immune responses against foreign organisms, such as an organ following transplantation. The research team has created a method to select “specific” Tregs that can regulate only the activity of effector cells that would target a transplanted organ, thus allowing the remaining effector cells to function normally.

If the new approach were to be adopted to treat patients, blood would be sampled from a potential transplant recipient and their Tregs would be extracted from the blood. The Tregs would then be combined with cells from the selected organ donor and the “specific” Tregs isolated using the new method developed by the team. The specific Tregs would then be expanded in numbers in a special lab and be reintroduced into the patient after the transplant. Scientists believe this new approach could be applicable to the majority of solid organ transplants such as the kidney, heart and liver.

The study was funded in part by the British Heart Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

SOURCE: Science Translational Medicine, May 18, 2011