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New hope for kidney transplants

When kidneys fail, the solution is to replace them. Simple? Not really. While most transplants are successful, 1 in 10 patients reject the new organ—even when it seems compatible.

Determining whether the antibodies are present may help predict the risk of organ rejection.

Marie-Josée Hébert, a nephrologist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), and her colleagues in the Canadian National Transplant Research Program may have found a new way to explain kidney rejection: graft-attacking antibodies released by certain patients.

According to Dr. Hébert, determining whether the antibodies are present may help predict the risk of organ rejection. Considering the scarcity of replacement organs, the high cost of transplants and the serious consequences of organ rejection (dialysis, a second transplant), the discovery holds great promise. In fact, with the support of university research commercialization firm Univalor, Marie-Josée Hébert is focused on transferring the results to industry, which has significant interest in her findings.

The study, which is still in the developmental stages, singled out this new type of antibody. The anti-LG3 reacts against the LG3 protein, which fosters the vascular repair and regeneration of the transplanted kidney. In some patients, the release of LG3 by the new kidney triggers a signal that incites the anti-LG3 to attack and damage the graft's vascular system. The kidney transplant does not heal properly, and the recipient rejects the organ.

Dr. Hébert is collaborating with teams in Canada and Europe to find a way to slow or stop the production of anti-LG3 in kidney recipients prior to transplant surgery in order to reduce the risk of rejection. The researchers are also exploring the possibility of treating the graft to ensure that it sends out fewer distress signals (LG3 protein) and is less detectable by the recipient's immune system.

Because the LG3 protein is found in the blood vessels of a number of transplanted organs, the experts are also aiming to enhance lung, pancreas and liver transplants.