Starzl Institute researchers to develop cell-based strategy for tranplant tolerance

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 16 Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute have been awarded $2.3 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to explore whether a special type of immune system cell can help induce immune tolerance in kidney transplantation.

Specifically, the researchers will try to harness a subset of dendritic cells that have unique tolerance-enhancing qualities to see whether the cells can be directed to influence the acceptance of transplanted donor kidneys, including kidneys that are immunologically mismatched to the recipient. The studies, which will focus on nonhuman primates, are based on other animal research and evidence in transplant patients successfully weaned off all immunosuppression that show a subpopulation of dendritic cells might play a key role in convincing the immune system to accept a transplanted organ.

"We are hopeful that a clinical strategy to induce tolerance in transplant patients will emerge from these studies in nonhuman primates. Indeed, it is everyone's goal working in the field of transplantation to identify ways to promote the permanent, drug-free acceptance of transplanted organs," said the study's principal investigator, Angus W. Thomson, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor of surgery and immunology at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The grant builds on several findings that have been reported in recent years by Dr. Thomson and members of his research team. In one set of studies, a pre-transplant infusion of these dendritic cell subtypes, which derive from lymphoid tissue or blood, allowed for prolonged survival in a mouse heart transplant model, even without the use of drugs to control rejection. In contrast, the better-known myeloid dendritic cells accelerated the rejection response.

According to the researchers, transplant patients who are off immunosuppres

Contact: Lisa Rossi
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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