Researchers at Hokkaido University and Juntendo University announced Saturday they have developed a new therapy to suppress the rejection of liver transplants without the use of immunosuppressive drugs.
The researchers said they have been honing the procedure since November 2010 on 10 patients in their 30s to 60s who had liver transplants at Hokkaido University Hospital. As of the end of February, four of them had gone without immunosuppressants for between two and six months.
They also said the therapy has enabled the other six patients to reduce their intake of immune-suppressing drugs to once a week from daily doses. Transplant recipients are usually required to take such medicines twice a day.
Around 500 liver transplantations are conducted in Japan annually for patients with end-stage liver failure, but donor recipients must continue to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.
The new technique involves collecting lymphocytes from both the recipient and the donor, cultivating them with a special antibody for two weeks and then inserting them into the recipient. The procedure blocks the lymphocytes from recognizing the donated organ as a “foreign substance” and therefore from rejecting it, the researchers said.
“There are many patients who are waiting for this therapy. We hope we can put it into practical use at an early date,” said Hokkaido University professor Satoru Todo.