Does subclinical rejection contribute to chronic rejection in renal transplant patients?

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Renal allograft biopsies have traditionally been performed in the setting of acute graft dysfunction. However, several groups have performed graft biopsies at times of stable graft function, and more recently, after treatment of rejection episodes. Surprisingly, unequivocal histologic criteria for acute rejection have been demonstrated in a high proportion of these protocol biopsies. The Winnipeg Transplant Group has documented the high prevalence of clinically silent inflammatory infiltrates in early protocol biopsies, and demonstrated their inflammatory and cytotoxic potential by immunohistochemical and molecular biological techniques. Furthermore, in a randomized trial, our group has demonstrated that subclinical rejection, if untreated, is associated with the development of early chronic pathology and late graft dysfunction. In this overview, we will summarize the early data on subclinical allograft inflammation, present the experience of the Winnipeg Transplant Group, and discuss the possible implications of subclinical rejection on the development of chronic rejection.

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