Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Using a cancer cell trick to avoid transplant rejection

13 May 2020

Stealth Mode

Organ transplants save many thousands of lives every year, but the procedure is still risky. Even with careful donor matching there's still a chance that the recipient’s own immune cells will recognise the new organ as foreign and try to destroy it, resulting in transplant rejection. To prevent this from happening, transplant recipients need to keep taking immune-suppressing drugs that keep their immune responses in check. But these treatments can have long-term side effects and leave people vulnerable to infections and other illnesses. In search of an alternative, researchers are stealing a trick from cancer cells, which manage to hide from the immune system by producing special molecules that act as a kind of ‘invisibility cloak’. Transplanted cells (purple) that have been genetically reprogrammed to carry the same molecules become invisible to immune cells (green), paving the way for new techniques that could reduce transplant rejection in the future.

Written by Kat Arney

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