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Brain stem cells are not rejected when transplanted

Boston, MA For the first time scientists have shown that brain stem cells are immune privileged, which means that they are invisible to a transplant recipient's immune system and do not trigger the immune system to reject them. These results, published in the July issue of Stem Cells, indicate that using central nervous system stem cells in transplants for diseases of the eye (which is part of the brain), brain, and spinal cord, may eliminate the need for tissue typing before, and immunosuppressive drugs after, transplantation. Ultimately these findings promise to improve the success of retinal transplantation to regenerate vision for millions with macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy and brain transplants to restore functioning for patients with disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

"These findings are very exciting," says Michael Young, PhD, the lead author of the study and an assistant scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. "Though we suspected brain stem cells might be protected in this way, this is the first documented evidence."

Most tissues when transplanted from one body to another are seen by the recipient as foreign and attacked by the immune system. This is because the transplanted tissue has molecules on its surface called antigens that are recognized by the immune system as "not self." If the immune response goes unchecked by drugs to inhibit the attack, it will eventually destroy the transplanted tissue and reject it.

There are sites in the body that do not mount attacks against foreign tissue because to do so would be too self-destructive. For instance, in the eye an all out immune attack would cause inflammation that would destroy delicate tissue and, with it, vision. These sites, which are known as "immune privileged," include the eye, the brain, the digestive system, and the reproductiv
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Contact: Patti Jacobs
pattijacobs@hotmail.com
617-912-2544
Schepens Eye Research Institute
14-Jul-2003


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