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Newly grown kidneys can sustain life in rats

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Hammerman, who is director of the Renal Division at the school's affiliate Barnes-Jewish Hospital, hopes to use animal-to-human transplants, known as xenotransplants, as a solution for chronic organ donation shortages.

"Every year, approximately 10,000 kidneys become available for transplant into patients with end-stage kidney disease," Hammerman says. "But the waiting lists for kidney transplants can run as high as 100,000 individuals, and most patients die of the disease before an organ becomes available."

Kidney function in pigs is similar to that in humans, and Hammerman's eventual goal is to use embryonic pig tissue transplants to help renal failure patients live longer.

Working with embryonic tissues that grow into organs inside the patient lets Hammerman avoid hyperacute and acute vascular rejection, two immune system responses that can destroy xenotransplants. In both of these responses, the body's immune system recognizes the blood vessels of transplanted tissue as foreign and attacks them.

"Those two types of rejection have so far made it impossible to xenotransplant fully grown kidneys," Hammerman explains. "However, we can avoid this by transplanting embryonic kidneys before blood vessels develop."

The primordia are small enough that survival can be maintained after transplantation through diffusion of oxygen and nutrients. The transplanted cells attract the growth of new blood vessels from the host as they grow into a mature organ.

Hammerman notes that recipients of embryonic xenotransplants will still have to take immune suppression drugs to prevent acute rejection, a third type of immune response that directly attacks transplanted tissues. But recipients of human kidney transplants also must take immune suppression drugs.

Hammerman and Rogers published their first report on growing kidneys in 1998. They are currently working to perfect pig-to-rat xenotransplantation of kidn
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
21-Jun-2004


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