University of Minnesota translational researchers, including the Schulze Diabetes Institute in collaboration with Northwestern University, have made a breakthrough in preclinical (primate) study removing the need for anti-rejection drugs on day 21 after a pancreatic islet transplant.
For decades, immunologists have attempted to train a transplant recipient’s immune system to accept transplanted cells and organs without the long-term use of anti-rejection drugs. The new preclinical research originating from a group of innovative thinkers out of University of Minnesota shows this may now be possible in humans. Proof that immune tolerance of transplants can be achieved was first demonstrated years ago yet despite imminence significance, transplant tolerance has only been achieved in a very few patients.
This new study capitalizes on the unique attributes of modified donor white blood cells, which were infused into transplant recipients one week before and one day after the transplant, thereby recapitulating nature’s formula for maintaining the body’s tolerance of its own tissues and organs. Without the need for long-term antirejection drugs, islet cell transplants could become the treatment option of choice and a potential cure for many people burdened by type 1 diabetes.
Commenting on the study, senior author Bernhard Hering, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Translational Medicine in the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota, noted that “Our study is the first study that reliably and safely induces lasting immune tolerance of transplants in nonhuman primates.” He continued “The consistency with which we were able to induce and maintain tolerance to transplants in nonhuman primates makes us very hopeful that our findings can be confirmed for the benefit of patients in planned clinical trials in pancreatic islet and living-donor kidney transplantation—it would open up an entirely new era in transplantation medicine.”
Bernhard Hering, MD, Professor and Vice Chair of Translational Medicine in the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota