Strategic Use of Epitope Matching to Improve Outcomes

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Understanding the events leading to allorecognition and the subsequent effector pathways engaged is key for the development of strategies to prolong graft survival. Optimizing patient outcomes will require 2 major advancements: (1) minimizing premature death with a functioning graft in the patients with stable graft function, and (2) maximizing graft survival by avoiding the aforementioned allorecognition. This necessitates personalized immunosuppression to avoid known metabolic side effects, risk for infection, and malignancy, while holding the alloimmune system in check. Since the beginning of transplant a key strategy to achieve this goal is to minimize HLA mismatching between donor and recipient. What has not evolved is any refinement in our evaluation of HLA relatedness between donor and recipient when HLA mismatch exists. Donor-recipient HLA mismatch at the amino acid level can now be determined. These mismatches serve as potential epitopes for de novo donor specific antibody development and correlate with late rejection and graft loss. It is in this context that HLA epitope analysis is considered as a strategy to permit safe immunosuppression minimization to improve patient outcomes through: (1) improved allocation schemes that favor donor-recipient pairs with a low HLA epitope mismatch load (especially at the class II loci) or avoiding specific epitope mismatches known to be highly immunogenic and (2) immunosuppressive minimization in patients with low epitope mismatch loads or without highly immunogenic epitope mismatches.

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