Aspirin targets key cell that triggers organ rejection and other immune responses, report University of Pittsburgh researchers in journal article

Animal studies suggest there could be an effective, cheap approach to preventing rejection

PITTSBURGH, June 5 -- University of Pittsburgh researchers have identified a new cellular target for aspirin, shedding light on the mechanisms of the most widely used drug in the world and raising a set of intriguing questions, including whether aspirin could be useful for preventing organ rejection.

In the June 15 issue of the Journal of Immunology, the researchers report for the first time that aspirin has a profound effect on bone-marrow derived dendritic cells -- the powerful immune system cells that are responsible for initiating an immune response -- by preventing their maturation and hence, their ability to signal other cells to attack.

The findings help to explain why aspirin taken in high doses significantly reduces inflammation and provides relief to patients with various autoimmune diseases, including arthritis and rheumatic fever, says lead author Holger Hackstein, M.D., a visiting research fellow at the University of Pittsburgh's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, who is working in the lab of Angus Thomson, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor of surgery and molecular genetics and biochemistry and senior author on the paper.

And while the research used a mouse model to look at aspirin's effect on myeloid dendritic cells, the findings point to possible novel therapies for patients with autoimmune diseases as well as approaches that could induce tolerance in organ transplant recipients. The researchers plan a series of animal studies to determine if aspirin can help prevent organ rejection. Specifically, they will be looking to see what role aspirin has in preventing dendritic cells from calling in the troops of T and B lymphocytes that directly attack transplanted organs.

"These findings provide new insight into the immunopharmacology of aspirin. Moreover, exposure to this readily available drug provides a simple, inexpe

Contact: Lisa Rossi
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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