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Could lung transplant rates improve?

By Tim Sandle     Feb 27, 2014 in Science
Organ transplant patients routinely receive drugs that stop their immune systems from attacking newly implanted hearts, livers, kidneys or lungs, which the body sees as foreign. However, the drugs used might actually trigger the organ rejections.
In a surprising discovery, researchers found that newly transplanted lungs in mice were more likely to be rejected if key immune cells were missing. This finding could turn the use of post-surgery drugs on its head.
The research suggests that in heart, liver and kidney transplants, knocking down immune system cells with immunosuppressive drugs helps to ensure that the immune system recognizes a new organ as the body's own. However, this is not the case with lung transplants. The chance of lung rejection if the drugs are used was shown in studies using mice.
The finding probably explains why five years after lung transplantation, fewer than half of the transplanted lungs are still functioning, according to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. This compares with five-year organ survival rates of about 70 percent for heart, kidney and liver transplants.
In light of the new findings, the researchers think current immune-suppression strategies should be re-evaluated in lung transplantation
The study was carried out by researchers based at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings have been published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, in a research paper titled “Central memory CD8 T lymphocytes mediate lung allograft acceptance.”
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