Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FAQ: What is xenotransplantation?

Xenotransplantation; the transplantation of cells and tissues between species; is typically characterized by an insurmountably high rate of transplant rejection as the host immune system identifies the tissue from another species and seeks to destroy the donor tissue. Using high amounts of immune-suppressive drugs can help but is associated with other problems.  Recent results from research performed at Northwestern University School of Medicine have taken the first step to making transplantation from animals to humans without immune-suppression a reality.

Mouse pancreatic islet (visualized by immunofluorescent
microscopy [red = insulin antibody])by Jakob Suckale
The project focused on transplantation of pancreatic islets from rats to mice without using immune-suppressive drugs. The goal is to eventually be able to transplant islets from a pig to a human as a way of treating type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is characterized by islets that do not produce insulin; so transplanting functional islets would lead to regulated insulin production and normal glucose levels. Current treatments sometimes involve the transplant of islets from deceased individuals to patients suffering from type 1 diabetes. However, donors are in short supply and in the mean time patients that are waiting suffer from damage to a variety of organs including the heart and eyes.

Though the scientists admit that this is a baby step, it is exciting that they could perform the transplant without using immune-suppressive drugs.

A summary of the research was used for this blog which can be found at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2013/07/interspecies-transplant-works-in-first-step-for-new-diabetes-therapy.html