α1,3-Galactosyltransferase Gene-Knockout Pig Heart Transplantation in Baboons with Survival Approaching 6 Months

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Abstract

Background.

The recent generation of α1,3-galactosyltransferase gene-knockout (GalT-KO) pigs has allowed investigation of the survival of GalT-KO pig organs in nonhuman primates.

Methods.

Heterotopic heart transplantation from GalT-KO pigs was carried out in baboons (n=8) using a human antihuman CD154 monoclonal antibody-based immunosuppressive regimen.

Results.

In six of the eight cases, graft survival extended to between approximately 2 and 6 months. All grafts developed thrombotic microangiopathy (TM). In particular, the clinical course of one baboon in which the graft functioned for 179 days is summarized. This baboon received aspirin (40 mg on alternate days) from day 4 in addition to heparin, which may have been a factor in the delay of onset and progression of TM and in prolonged graft survival. Maintenance therapy with anti-CD154 mAb, mycophenolate mofetil, and methylprednisolone was associated with persistently low numbers of CD3+CD4+ and CD3+CD8+ cells. Despite persisting depletion of these cells, no infectious complications occurred.

Conclusions.

It remains to be established whether TM is related to a very low level of natural preformed or T-cell-induced antibody deposition on the graft, inducing endothelial activation and injury, or to molecular incompatibilities in the coagulation mechanisms between pig and baboon, or to both. However, function of a pig organ in a baboon for a period approaching six months, which has not been reported previously, lends encouragement that the barriers to xenotransplantation will eventually be overcome.

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