Cultured thymus tissue implementation promotes donor-specific tolerance to allogeneic heart transplants.


Eighty-six infants born without a thymus have been treated with allogeneic cultured thymus tissue implantation (CTTI). These infants, who lack T cells and are profoundly immunodeficient at birth, after CTTI from an unmatched donor develop genetically-recipient T cells that are tolerant to both their own major histocompatibility antigens and those of the donor. We tested use of CTTI with the goal of inducing tolerance to unmatched heart transplants in immunocompetent rats. We thymectomized and T cell depleted Lewis rats. The rats were then given Lewis x Dark Agouti (LWxDA) CTTI under the kidney capsule and vascularized DA heart transplants in the abdomen. Cyclosporine was administered for 4 months. The control group did not receive CTTI. Recipients with CTTI showed repopulation of naïve and recent thymic emigrant CD4 T cells; controls had none. Recipients of CTTI did not reject DA cardiac allografts. Control animals did not reject DA grafts, due to lack of functional T cells. To confirm donor-specific unresponsiveness, MHC-mismatched Brown Norway (BN) hearts were transplanted 6 months after the initial DA heart transplant. LW rats with (LWxDA) CTTI rejected the third-party BN hearts (mean survival time 10d; n=5). Controls did not (n=5). CTTI recipients produced antibody against third party BN donor but not against the DA thymus donor demonstrating humoral donor-specific tolerance. Taken together, F1(LWxDA) CTTI given to Lewis rats resulted in specific tolerance to the allogeneic DA MHC expressed in the donor thymus with resulting long-term survival of DA heart transplants after withdrawal of all immunosuppression.





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Kwun, Jean, Jie Li, Clay Rouse, Jae Berm Park, Alton B Farris, Maragatha Kuchibhatla, Joseph W Turek, Stuart J Knechtle, et al. (2020). Cultured thymus tissue implementation promotes donor-specific tolerance to allogeneic heart transplants. JCI insight. 10.1172/jci.insight.129983 Retrieved from

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