With the donor-related blood stem cells now present in the thymus, the mouse recipient's own T-cells learned to recognize them as part of itself and therefore caused no rejection. These now 'donor-friendly' T-cells then circulated within the recipient mouse's blood, Zavazava explained.
"When we then transplanted into the recipient mouse a donor mouse heart that had the same genetic make-up as the previously injected stem cells, the T-cells didn't reject the heart because they recognized it as compatible," Zavazava said.
"If we could eventually use this approach for organ transplantation in humans, it would be a huge advantage over the method we're currently using," he added.
In addition to its potential for organ transplantation treatment, the embryonic stem cell-based method might also have implications for treating bone marrow diseases such as leukemia.
Because a mouse is so small, it was not possible in the study to remove the animal's existing heart and replace it with another. Thus, to test for transplant success, the study approach involved leaving the original heart intact, transplanting a second functional heart into the abdomen and then linking the transplanted heart to the aorta.
|Contact: Becky Soglin|
University of Iowa