Hard Graft Made Easy

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Science  10 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5899, pp. 169
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5899.169b

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing β cells, situated in the pancreas within the islets of Langerhans, leaving sufferers dependent on regular injections of insulin to control their blood glucose levels. An attractive treatment would be the transplantation of islets from healthy donors but, as with all organ transplants, there is the risk of rejection and a need for long-term suppression of the recipient's immune system, leaving the person prey to opportunistic infections. Luo et al. have developed a method to make diabetic mice tolerant to islet grafts by injecting them once 1 week before transplantation and again 1 day afterward with donor spleen cells, which were first treated with the chemical crosslinker 1-ethyl-3-(3'-dimethylaminopropyl)-carbodiimide. Antigen-presenting cells from the donor spleen induced the down-regulation of the host effector T cells that would otherwise orchestrate graft rejection, and encouraged regulatory T cells to provide long-term tolerance to the transplants. Islet cells grafted into diabetic mice produced insulin for several months, and grafts could be replaced without additional treatment, as long as the new islets came from the same original donor. This approach depended on the exact timing and size of fixed-cell injections but, if a similar protocol can be established for humans, it could provide a simple and effective therapy for a very common condition.— CS*

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 14527 (2008).

  • * Helen Pickersgill and Chris Surridge are locum editors in Science's editorial department.

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