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Organ Transplants Helped By Donor Bone Marrow, University Of Pittsburgh Researchers Report At National Transplant Meetings

Children Receive Bone Marrow In Thymus In Unique Heart Transplant Study

CHICAGO, May 16 -- Providing patients with bone marrow from the same donor as the organ being transplanted significantly reduces rejection, especially if multiple doses of the donor bone marrow cells are given, according to results of a major, ongoing study at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, preliminary results of the first-ever human trial involving children who received bone marrow injections into the thymus during heart transplantation indicate the procedure is both safe and feasible and has potential to promote long-term acceptance of the organ. Findings from both studies are being presented at the 18th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Transplantation May 15-19 and at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons May 19-21 in Chicago.

How to achieve long-term acceptance, or tolerance, of transplanted organs is a major area of study at the University of Pittsburgh. Much of the clinical research has evolved from the landmark observation by Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., that donor and recipient cells continue to coexist many years after transplantation. Dr. Starzl is professor of surgery and founder of the University of Pittsburgh's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute. For the past six years, UPMC researchers have been conducting a study -- the largest of its kind -- to determine if infusions of donor bone marrow at the time of transplant surgery can boost the cellular environment the team believes is necessary for tolerance.

Recently, the Pittsburgh team initiated a similar study with children undergoing heart transplantation. But instead of infusing bone marrow into the peripheral blood, researchers inject the bone marrow into the patient's thymus, where key cells of the immune system are educated to recognize self and non-self. This study represents the first human trial of its kin
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Contact: Lisa Rossi
rossiL@msx.upmc.edu
412-624-2607
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
17-May-1999


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