Little is known about the effect of an individuals immune history on their response to a donated tissue transplant. An important study by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, reveals that individuals harboring virally-induced memory T cells that are cross reactive with donor antigens are resistant to conventional strategies designed to induce transplant tolerance.
Enormous progress has been achieved in the field of transplantation during the past 3 decades, due in large part to the availability of effective immunosuppressive drugs. Such drugs are designed to sufficiently suppress the recipient immune response to the donor tissue without compromising the ability to fight infection. In the 50 years since the first description of tolerance to transplanted tissue in mice, researchers have strived to induce tolerance in human transplant recipients. So why the discrepancy?
In the June 16 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Christian Larsen and his colleagues demonstrated that a critical distinction between pathogen-free mice used in transplant research and nonhuman primates or human patients is their acquired immune history. The authors demonstrate that a specific threshold of memory cells is necessary to promote rejection and CD8+ central memory cells are principally responsible for mediating rejection. The data reveal that the transplantation field may have underappreciated the barrier that memory to previous viral infections in the recipient serves in the induction of tolerance.
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