A therapeutic approach that appears to significantly reduce the rejection risk of transplanted organs is currently being studied in multi-center clinical trials but already has been adopted as an effective tool by most major transplant centers throughout the country.
The therapy, infusion of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), appears to be helpful in preventing rejection in difficult cases when other medications have failed, according to Stanley C. Jordan, M.D., director of Pediatric Nephrology and Transplant Immunology, and medical director of the Renal Transplant Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Led by Dr. Jordan, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center began to develop the concept of using gammaglobulin in a transplant environment in the late 1980s as IVIG was becoming established as a therapy for immune system disorders. "IVIG treatment has given the gift of life to many patients who would not have had a chance at transplantation or would have died or languished on dialysis without the hope of a life-saving transplant," Dr. Jordan said.
Immunoglobulins are proteins naturally produced within the body that can act as antibodies -- natural defenses against invading organisms called antigens. A processed form of immunoglobulin made from blood plasma can be administered to bolster the body's natural levels. For transplant specialists looking to modify the immune system so that it will accept the "foreign tissue" of a transplanted organ, IVIG products possess several appealing properties.
"We have other very powerful drugs that are currently available to suppress the
immune system but there is a price to pay. They make the patient more
susceptible to infectious complications because most of the medications are
globally immunosuppressive," said Dr. Jordan. "The good thing about IV
gammaglobulin therapy is that it modulates the immune system, it doesn't
suppress it, and it doesn't predispose the patient to infectious complications.
Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center