Says Mark Stegall, M.D., head of the transplant team that studied kidney genes' response to transplantation, "The big question has always been: Why don't the antibodies injure the kidney? Our study begins to show one possible reason for that -- there's a protective mechanism at work."
In the study, the Mayo Clinic team analyzed which genes are turned on during the biological phenomenon known as "accommodation" -- the process by which a transplanted organ adapts to the new environment of the donor's body. Accommodation was first described 20 years ago by Jeffrey Platt, M.D., a Mayo Clinic transplant biologist and co-author of this current Mayo Clinic study.
James Gloor, M.D., a Mayo Clinic nephrologist and research team member, describes the significance of the work this way: "It's not that the recipient's immune system fails to see the organ; it's more that the organ, in some way, can turn on this protection that allows it to inhabit this otherwise hostile environment of a new body."
An Accommodation Analogy: Calluses and Blisters
Transplant surgeons want to get to the heart of the accommodation mechanism so they can manipulate it most effectively and gently. Their goal is to provide the patient maximum benefit in a transplant with the least side effects.
Says Dr. Gloor, "In biology, most of the time the body can protect itself from a variety of things." He offers the example of how feet protect themselves from the friction of new shoes that cause blisters by producing protective skin thickenings: calluses.
Contact: Sara Lee