London : A chance discovery by biologists will help trick the immune system into believing that a transplanted organ is the body’s own, not a foreign element, nipping its rejection in the bud.
The scientists confirmed the two-way transfer of a molecule called MHC that instructs the immune system to tell “self” from “non-self”. By disrupting this, transplanted organs should become “invisible” to the host’s immune system, hence out of the pale of attacks.
Such an advance would be a major medical breakthrough because current methods of preventing organ rejection involve weakening the host’s immune system, which can lead to life-threatening infections.
The researchers made this discovery when they transplanted kidneys or hearts from one set of mice into another, with each set of mice having a different version of the molecule being studied.
They then conducted tests to see if the molecules were transferred. In the recipient mice, the donated kidneys or hearts and the host tissue expressed both types of molecules. This is the first time that this transfer has been shown to happen in a living system.
Wilson Wong, senior researcher from King’s College London, said that “that this study will lead to a better understanding of the immune system to benefit the development of new therapies in areas related to transplantation.”
“The medical potential of this finding is enormous,” says Gerald Weissmann, a doctor and editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, which carried the report.
“Understanding molecular miscegenation (desegregation) should not only make transplantation more widespread and effective, but also shed light on how microbes disrupt our body’s immune apparatus for distinguishing self from non-self,” he added.
The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) is published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is the most cited biology journal worldwide, according to the Institute for Scientific Information.