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Researchers Develop First Mouse Model of Lung Transplantation

Surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed the first mouse model of lung transplantation , and theyre hoping it will help explain why the success of the procedure in humans lags far behind other solid organ transplants.

Ultimately, the mouse model could pave the way for developing new therapies to prevent lung transplant rejection a major problem that limits the long-term success of the procedure.

Five years after lung transplant surgery, only about 45 percent of patients are still alive, according to the U.S. Organ and Procurement and Transplantation Network. This compares with five-year survival rates of about 70 percent for heart and liver transplants and about 80 percent for kidney transplants. About 1,000 lung transplants are performed each year in the United States.

The high failure rate of lung transplants is a huge problem, says lung transplant surgeon Daniel Kreisel, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of surgery and a lead investigator of the research.

Unlike other organs, lungs are constantly exposed to bacteria and viruses in the environment, and we think this exposure increases the risk of chronic rejection and the eventual failure of the organ. This is why the mouse model is so critical. It will allow us to understand the molecular mechanisms that control lung transplant rejection, he added.

Lung transplants are the only treatment option for end-stage lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis and certain congenital lung defects. Following a transplant, patients must take drugs for the rest of their lives that suppress the immune system and prevent it from attacking the new lung. This leaves them vulnerable to upper respiratory infections, which can quickly develop into pneumonia.

Kreisel and others suspect that these illnesses alter the immune response and increase
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