Published in the Nov. 23 edition of Science Signaling, their findings suggest new therapeutic approaches for preventing transplant rejection and sabotaging cancer growth.
The team focused on the mechanism behind narrowing of the donor's grafted blood vessels, which blocks blood from reaching the transplanted organ. Starved of oxygen and other nutrients, the organ eventually fails, forcing the patient back on the transplant waiting list.
"Chronic rejection is the No. 1 cause of organ failure in the first year of transplant," explained Elaine Reed, director of the UCLA Immunogenetics Center and professor of pathology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "In the first five years, some 40 percent of organs fail after transplant due to blockage of the grafted blood vessels. Currently, we have no way to treat this deadly condition."
Earlier research by Reed's laboratory discovered that patients whose immune systems manufactured antibodies to their donor's human leukocyte antigens (HLA) were at higher risk for chronic rejection.
In this study, Reed and her colleagues looked at how HLA molecules on donor tissue provoke an immune response in the patient. The team examined how the patient's antibodies trigger signals that spark overgrowth of the cells lining the inner blood vessels of the grafted organ.
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