- A breakthrough in transplant research could provide a
key to the successful use of animal organs in human patients, British scientists
- 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
- 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
- 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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