Scientists have developed a new treatment for organ transplant patients that may eliminate the need for long-term drug therapy to stop their bodies from rejecting the new organ.
German researchers have found that a cocktail of infection-fighting white blood cells from the transplant recipient and cells from the donor reduced or eradicated the need for immune-suppressing drugs.
In the study, researchers injected the cocktail of the transplant acceptance-inducing cells (TAICs) into organ recipients prior to or after the transplant procedure.
The findings are published in the August edition of the journal Transplant International.
The researchers said that transplant recipients have always been required to take a number of drugs to prevent their immune systems from rejecting the new organ.
However, those drugs don't always prevent rejection of the organ over a long-term period, and they can cause severe side effects.
"That is why our use of transplant acceptance-inducing cells (TAICs) in kidney transplant patients is such an exciting development, as it could eventually offer patients who have had transplant surgery a much higher quality of life, free from complex drug regimes," lead study author Dr. James A. Hutchinson, from the University of Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel, Germany, said in a statement.
"Although our use of TAICs is still in the preliminary stages, the results of our clinical trials on 17 kidney transplant patients are promising."
The study had two phases.
In the first phase, researchers gave 12 kidney transplant patients TAICs as well as conventional drug therapy to reduce the likelihood of organ rejection after their surgery.
Ten of the 12 patients were weaned off the conventional drugs over an eight-week period, with six of them being weaned down to tacrolimus monotherapy, a low-dose drug regime that has fewer side effects.
In the second phase, five kidney transplant patients received TAICs before their operations.
One of the patients went eight months without any conventional anti-rejection drugs, while three others were weaned to the tacrolimus montherapy.
The patients in both phases did not report any major side effects.
"Our research clearly shows that infusing TAICs into patients before they have a kidney transplant, or after the procedure has been carried out, is a practical and safe clinical option," Hutchinson said.
"Although this procedure is still being developed and refined, it poses an exciting possibility for clinicians and patients alike."
(Read a related article about a U.S. study in ScienceDaily)
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