Dendritic cell therapy prolongs survival in kidney transplant patients

Using animal models, a group of experts at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine, demonstrated the efficiency of dendritic cell therapy in kidney transplant surgery.

Developed further, this therapy may prove to be an efficient alternative to immunosuppressants usually used during transplant surgeries.

Organ transplants have saved innumerable lives, but they also bring along the cost of long-term use of immunosuppressants to health. These powerful immunosuppressants tend to invite a number of health conditions, and sometimes may also cause serious side-effects.

Better alternatives to immunosuppressants are needed to help encourage the recipient's immune system to accept the donor organ, thereby cutting down the need of drugs; this study, if confirmed in human subjects too, may do just that.

"This study shows it is possible to prepare the patient's immune system for a donor kidney by administering specially treated immune cells from the donor in advance of the transplant surgery," Dr Angus Thomson, PhD, DSc , professor of immunology and senior investigator, explained. "This could be very helpful in the context of planned kidney donations from living relatives, and could one day be adapted to transplantation from deceased donors."

For the study, the researchers generated immune cells known as dendritic cells from the blood of a rhesus monkey, which would later be the kidney donor. A week before the transplant, the a group of recipient monkeys was given a single infusion of dendritic cells from the donor monkeys, while another group was not.

Post-transplant, both the groups of monkeys were given the same dose of immunosuppressants, which was modified so as to eventually cause rejection of the kidney.

The researchers found that the monkeys who were injected with dendritic cells survived for around 113 days as opposed to the monkeys who were just given immunosuppressants, and survived for just 40 days.

"The results indicate that we achieved immune system regulation without side effects of the DCs (dendritic cells), but better yet, the monkeys were healthier from a clinical perspective," Mohamed Ezzelerab, MD, research assistant professor and lead author of the study, explained. "They maintained a better weight, had less protein in the urine and fewer signs of kidney damage than the other group. Ultimately, all these factors played a role in prolonging organ survival in the group that received DC therapy."

The findings of this study are now available in the online version of the journal American Journal of Transplantation.

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