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Investigational transplant drug effectively preserves kidneys while avoiding toxic side effects

ATLANTA Physician-researchers at Emory University in Atlanta have shown an investigational medication, known as LEA29Y (belatacept), is effective in preserving transplanted kidney function while at the same time avoiding the toxic side effects that are common in the currently used long-term, immunosuppressive transplant medications. The pre-clinical research conducted with nonhuman primates at the Yerkes National Primate Research center was an important step in establishing human clinical trials to develop an effective alternative to current anti-rejection therapies. Findings from one of the nonhuman primate studies appear in the March issue of the American Journal of Transplantation, which currently is online and appeared in print on February 21.

More than 23,000 organ transplants are performed each year in the United States. While current immunosuppressant medications have reduced the incidence of early organ failure following transplants, measures to prevent late failure and to halt other diseases that result from toxic side effects of current treatments have been limited.

Cyclosporine, the current standard of care following organ transplantation, prevents initial organ rejection by effectively blocking certain immune system pathways that are activated when the body detects foreign cells. At the same time, though, cyclosporine indiscriminately targets and blocks other cellular signal pathways, causing serious side effects such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, which may lead to cardiovascular disease, and high kidney toxicity that ultimately leads to long-term renal failure. In addition, long-term cyclosporine use damages the body's immune system and prevents it from fighting off other infections following transplant.

"For the past 20 years, transplant patients have been treated with cyclosporine-like medications that effectively suppressed the immune system to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ," said Christian
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Contact: Lisa Newbern
lmnewbe@emory.edu
404-727-7709
Emory University Health Sciences Center
22-Feb-2005


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