Thursday, April 22, 2010

Using Gene Therapy to Repair Damaged Lungs May Improve Viability and Availability of Donor Organs

The new technique described here could expand the number of donor lungs by using organs that are currently discarded, and improve outcomes after transplantation. I've done several posts on this in the past and the University Health Network's press release gives a more detailed overview with photos and video links. Dr. Keshavjee is the surgeon that performed my lung transplant back in 2002 and it's been my great privilege to see first hand the amazing research that's being done at Toronto General Hospital and University Health Network in Toronto.

Research Presented at ISHLT Meeting Shows Promise to Improve Outlook for Lung Transplant Patients

ADDISON, Texas, April 21 - /PRNewswire/ -- Promising research brings hope for the almost two thousand lung transplant candidates who currently make up The United Network for Organ Sharing's (UNOS) wait list. A new technique that uses gene therapy to help repair damaged lungs previously found unfit for transplant shows promise for addressing the critical shortage of healthy donor organs. Recent research on IL-10 Gene Therapy will be presented in today's symposium Getting to Yes – Increasing Lung Donors during the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation's (ISHLT) 30th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

More than 80 percent of potential donor lungs cannot be used for transplantation because the organs are damaged either before or during the transplant process. The IL-10 Gene Therapy could potentially increase the viability of those donor lungs.

Interleukin10 (IL-10) is an anti-inflammatory cytokine. This protein down-regulates, or decreases, the inflammatory potential of injured cells. It also has the capacity to suppress the recipient's immune system that rejects the transplanted organ. The IL-10 gene is found normally in animal and human cells and plays a role in inhibiting the immune response to infection and the rejection response to foreign materials such as transplanted organs.

"This type of therapy could ultimately have a great impact on lung transplantation around the world," said Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, MD, University of Toronto, Canada, who will present at today's ISHLT symposium.

Dr. Keshavjee and his team of researchers have focused on IL-10 because the protein protects against inflammatory injury as well as immune therapy. This new approach has successfully reduced inflammation and improved function in pig lungs that were treated outside the body and transplanted into recipient pigs. The same approach has brought about a similar improvement in human donor lungs deemed unsuitable for transplantation.

"Although more work is needed before lungs treated with IL-10 therapy can be transplanted into human recipients," continued Dr. Keshavjee. "The data suggest that this gene repair strategy could increase the number of usable donor organs."

This genetic technique could also be used to deliver other gene products to the lungs and might eventually be used to repair damaged lungs in a living patient.


The International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the science and treatment of end-stage heart and lung diseases. Created in 1981, the Society now includes more than 2,200 members from 45-plus countries, representing a variety of disciplines involved in the management and treatment of end-stage heart and lung disease. For more information, visit

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