Research Group

  • Dr. Peter Terness, Principal Investigator


  • University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany


  • Using the Immunosuppressive IDO Gene for Prevention of Allograft Rejection

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 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 and viruses, which often leads to serious infections and other side effects. 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 fetuses, 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. In spite of that, the expectant mother does not reject the fetus. It is the placenta, the organ located between the mother and the conceptus, which is made responsible for suppressing the lymphocyte attack. Recently, a gene harboured by placental cells that suppresses the activity of lymphocytes has been identified. In the current project, we plan to insert this gene into the prospective donor organ. 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.