Transplantation Tolerance

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A hallmark of adaptive immunity is the ability to distinguish ‘self ’ from ‘non-self ’ through the specific recognition of foreign proteins, or antigens. When an individual receives an organ transplant, the immune system cannot distinguish the donor organ from a pathogenic intruder, thus the immune system begins to attack and reject the new organ, a process called allograft rejection.  

Traditionally, when an individual undergoes a transplant operation, they also have to undergo drug therapy to suppress the activity of the immune system and to prevent rejection of the new organ.  However, despite major improvements in graft survival initially, rejection of the donor tissue often occurs with time.  Furthermore, long-term use of immune suppressive drugs leave patients vulnerable to complications, such as susceptibility to opportunistic infections and the development of malignancies.

To address these problems, immunologists have been looking for ways to induce the immune system to accept the donor tissue as ‘self,’ a process called transplantation tolerance.  Researchers at ITI and Stanford University are currently looking into new treatment strategies, such as the use of stem cells or the modulation of specialized cells called regulatory T (Treg) cells that can be employed to temper and prevent rejection.  These strategies have already proven to be successful and have exemplified how ITI physicians and scientists are true leaders in the field of transplantation tolerance.

Transplant Programs

The transplant programs at Stanford Hospital & Clinics have earned a number of distinctions including outstanding outcomes for both patient and graft survival. Learn More »

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