The innovative approach will work by re-injecting patients with their own immune cells after the cells have been isolated from a blood sample. The cells would be grown in the laboratory under conditions that will make them “learn” not to reject the transplant.
Although modern organ transplantation is considered to be fairly effective, patients are required to take strong drugs for the rest of their lives to make sure the organ is not rejected by the body’s immune system. However it is known that long-term use of these drugs can lead to an increased risk of infection, cancer, damage to blood vessels, and metabolic complications.
The method developed by Dr Bushell and his team isolates human T cells cultured in the lab with an existing drug called cilostamide and cells from the tissue being transplanted back into the patient. The researchers then showed that the human regulatory T cells produced using this method could control transplant rejection in a mouse model with a human-like immune system.
The new cell therapy is likely to be used initially in living donor transplantation, where for example a person donates a kidney to a relative, spouse, or close friend. This type of donation is now very widespread because of the shortage of organs from deceased donors.