ABO-incompatible heart transplantation

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Abstract

Purpose of review

ABO-incompatible (ABOi) heart transplantation (HTx) in young children has evolved from an experimental approach to a standard allocation option in many countries. Clinical and immunological research in ABOi transplantation has revealed insight into the immature immune system and its role in superior graft acceptance in childhood and antigen-specific tolerance.

Recent findings

Multicenter experience has confirmed equal actuarial survival, freedom from rejection, and graft vasculopathy comparing ABOi with ABO-compatible HTx. Observations of reduced antibody production and B-cell immunity toward the donor blood group have been confirmed in long-term follow-up. Mechanisms contributing to tolerance in this setting involve the interplay between B-cells and the complement system and the development of B-cell memory. Better characterization of the ABH polysaccharide antigens has improved diagnostic methods and clinical assessment of blood group antibodies. Boundaries regarding age, immune maturity, and therapeutic interventions to extend the applicability of ABOi HTx have been explored and resulted in data that may be useful for HTx patients beyond infancy and ABOi transplantation of other organs. Tolerance of ABH antigens possibly extends to HLA response.

Summary

The review provides insight into the clinical evolution of ABOi HTx and associated immunologic discoveries. Current experiences and boundaries are discussed together with recent and potential future developments for utilization in other patient and age groups.

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