New Find May Aid Animal
Organ Transplants
By Rebecca Allison,3604,349266,00.html
A breakthrough in transplant research could provide a key to the successful use of animal organs in human patients, British scientists announced yesterday.
The discovery, by researchers at Hammersmith hospital, London, marks a significant step forward in efforts to solve the problems of rejection following transplant operations.
The team found a way to block a response which causes the body to reject transplants by preventing a molecular reaction between the host and foreign cells. As a result, transplanted cells were no longer regarded by the body as foreign.
Previous attempts to prevent the immune system rejecting transplant organs had an unfortunate effect on other parts of the immune system, leaving the patient unprotected against infection and disease.
But researchers at Hammersmith, led by Professor Robert Lechler, discovered a way to allow the molecular interaction at the heart of the rejection re sponse to be stopped without harming the rest of the immune system.
Prof Lechler said: "Our first models using cells from the pancreas have been successful and we are now taking these findings on to further, more complex, models.
"Eventually we hope that using foreign organs in humans may start to solve the huge shortage of organ donors across the world."
A solution to the problems of rejection of foreign organs would make it easier to use pig hearts, livers and kidneys to fill the gap left by the shortage of human donors.
The acute shortage of organ donors worldwide means the number of patients in urgent need of spare part surgery outnumbers potential donors by 20 to 1.
Lord Winston, director of research and development at Hammersmith, said: "Several thousand people a year die awaiting organ transplants in this country and there are probably more patients who, because of the shortage of donors, never get on the waiting list."
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