Research Group

  • Dr. Peter Terness, Principal Investigator


  • University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany


  • Prevention of Allograft Rejection by Local Expression of the IDO Gene

When a foreign tissue or organ is transplanted into an unrelated person the immune system of the recipient destroys the graft. This process is known as the rejection reaction. To suppress the rejection, patients carrying transplanted organs receive immunosuppressive drugs. These drugs, however, not only suppress the unwanted immune reaction to the foreign tissue but also that to harmful aggressors, such as bacteria, viruses, etc., which often leads to serious infections and other diseases. The ultimate objective of transplantation immunology is to specifically inhibit the response against the graft while leaving the remaining immune defence unaltered.

Nature has provided us with at least one example of how this can be accomplished. Pregnant women carry foetuses, half of whose genes come from the mother and the other half from the father. The part inherited from the father is foreign to the mother. Nevertheless, the expectant mother does not reject the foetus. It is the placenta, the organ located between the mother and the conceptus, which is responsible for suppressing the lymphocyte attack.

Recently, a gene active in placental cells that suppresses the activity of these lymphocytes has been identified. In the current project we plan to insert this gene into the prospective graft. In order to test the action of the gene, a rat heart transplant model has been chosen. It is expected that after expression of the suppressive gene in the transplanted heart the infiltrating lymphocytes will be inactivated. After successful completion of animal experiments, first clinical trials will be considered.