Study Finds New Technique to Reduce Rejection of Heart Transplant


Removing immune cells from a donor heart using a new technique reduces risk of acute rejection, even without power immunosuppressant drugs, says a new study at the University of Manchester. Called ex-vivo heart perfusion, the technique secures and restores the heart after it is removed from the donor. And, it extends preservation time of organs from the current four to 24 hours.

The study jointly carried out by researchers at University of Manchester and Lund University is published in the journal Frontiers of Immunology, and sheds light how acute rejection is triggered.

Factually, immune cells in the donor heart migrate into the recipient’s body during heart transplant surgery and are recognized as foreign. Thereafter, the immune system of the recipient is programmed to trigger rejection of the transplanted organ.

New Technique major advancement over current one

Earlier, the team of researchers examined donor hearts from pigs both before and after the use of ex-vivo heart perfusion (EVHP). The team reported immune cells of the recipient were significantly depleted.

The transplant resulted in less inflammation as the molecular health of the tissue was excellent. Using the new technique, the hearts were examined, preserved, and transplanted in pigs. And, the new method compared with the current method, wherein heart is stored in ice before transplantation.

Meanwhile, the evidence of rejection after EVHP is little, even if immunosuppressants were not used. On the contrary, transplant involving non EVHP very quickly shows signs of severe rejection. Currently, after a heart transplant, patients need lifelong immunosuppressant to prevent the resident immune system from destroying the transplanted organ – called acute rejection.

The new technique is a major advancement in heart transplantation, as it allows organs to be stored longer with incredible preservation.

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