Antibody could be 'less toxic' approach to organ transplants, Duke study shows
Researchers at Duke University might have found a way to improve organ transplants. When tested in primates, an antibody showed it could prevent organ rejection in kidney transplants.
One major problem for patients receiving organ transplants is that the body's immune system recognizes a foreign organ, and tries to attack it.
"Human bodies are very good at rejecting things that are not theirs," said Dr. Imran J. Anwar, a surgical research fellow in Duke’s Department of Surgery and lead author of a paper on this research.
There's a solution for this, but it comes with its own set of problems. Drugs like Tacrolimus can help the body accept the new organ, but come with a long list of side effects like increased risk of cancers, weight gain, hypertension or other heart issues. These drugs need to be taken every day, and they lose efficacy over time.
"Long story short, drugs for transplant are really good at preventing organ rejections, but have pretty bad side effects if you take them for a long time," said Anwar.
This antibody – called AT-1501 – reduced the need for those additional drugs, when tested in primates that had undergone kidney transplants. It hasn't shown to take away the need for all additional immunosuppressant drugs, but researchers said it could reduce the need, possibly leading to better outcomes and longer life expectancies for organ transplant patients.
"This less toxic approach has been pursued for over 20 years, and I think we are finally at a turning point," said Dr. Allan Kirk, chair of Duke's Department of Surgery and study co-author. "This could be a great advance for people in need of organ transplants."
The study received funding support from the National Institutes of Health, the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, and Eledon Pharmaceuticals, which is developing AT-1501 for kidney and islet cell transplant.