- Prof. Robert Lechler, Principal Investigator
- Dr. Shuiping Jiang, Co-Investigator
- King's College London, Guy's Campus, London, UK
- Promoting Transplantation Tolerance: Adoptive T Cell Therapy Using Customised Regulatory Cells
Transplantation is a curative treatment for the failure of many bodily organs, including the kidney, heart, liver, lung and pancreas. For many patients receiving a transplant is a matter of life and death, for others it leads to a huge improvement in quality of life.
Two major problems limit the effectiveness of organ transplantation. First, transplant patients currently need to take powerful drugs that suppress the immune system and prevent transplant rejection. These drugs lay the patient open to a variety of serious infections, and substantially increase the risk of cancer. Second, most transplants succumb to a process known as chronic rejection, that limits the lifespan of the average kidney transplant to approximately 10 years.
The central aim of this proposal is to design strategies for making the patient accept the transplant without the need for life-long drug treatment. This requires creating a “blindspot” in the immune system so that it doesn’t recognise and destroy the transplant, while remaining fully competent to defend the patient against infections and cancer.
We plan to achieve this by exploiting the properties of a specialised type of white blood cell that can prevent other white blood cells from rejecting a transplant. These cells will be isolated and expanded in number outside the body, and then injected after a transplant is put in place. The strategy will first be tested and developed in an experimental model of heart transplantation, and then we will design the optimal way to expand these “regulator cells” from human blood samples. The results of these studies will be invaluable in designing protocols for use in transplant patients, and will hopefully pave the way for long-term, drug-free transplant survival.