The role of platelets in coagulation dysfunction in xenotransplantation, and therapeutic options

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Abstract

Xenotransplantation could resolve the increasing discrepancy between the availability of deceased human donor organs and the demand for transplantation. Most advances in this field have resulted from the introduction of genetically engineered pigs, e.g., α1,3-galactosyltransferase gene-knockout (GTKO) pigs transgenic for one or more human complement-regulatory proteins (e.g., CD55, CD46, CD59). Failure of these grafts has not been associated with the classical features of acute humoral xenograft rejection, but with the development of thrombotic microangiopathy in the graft and/or consumptive coagulopathy in the recipient. Although the precise mechanisms of coagulation dysregulation remain unclear, molecular incompatibilities between primate coagulation factors and pig natural anticoagulants exacerbate the thrombotic state within the xenograft vasculature. Platelets play a crucial role in thrombosis and contribute to the coagulation disorder in xenotransplantation. They are therefore important targets if this barrier is to be overcome. Further genetic manipulation of the organ-source pigs, such as pigs that express one or more coagulation-regulatory genes (e.g., thrombomodulin, endothelial protein C receptor, tissue factor pathway inhibitor, CD39), is anticipated to inhibit platelet activation and the generation of thrombus. In addition, adjunctive pharmacologic anti-platelet therapy may be required. The genetic manipulations that are currently being tested are reviewed, as are the potential pharmacologic agents that may prove beneficial.

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