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Progress and challenges in lung xenotransplantation

an update

Burdorf, Lars; Azimzadeh, Agnes M.; Pierson, Richard N. III

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: December 2018 - Volume 23 - Issue 6 - p 621–627
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0000000000000582

Purpose of review Recent progress in genetic engineering has facilitated development of transgenic donor animals designed to overcome the known barriers to discordant xenotransplantation, and greatly accelerated progress in the field of xenotransplantation. Here we review and summarize recent progress in lung xenotransplantation, and discuss possible additional genetic modifications and other interventions that may further advance the use of pulmonary xenografts towards clinical applications based on known mechanisms of xeno lung injury.

Recent findings Ex-vivo lung perfusion experiments have shown that the addition of human complement (hCD46, hCD55), coagulation (hEPCR, hVWF, hTBM, hTFPI, hCD39), or anti-inflammatory pathway regulatory genes (HO-1, HLA-E), and the knockout (KO) of major porcine carbohydrates (GalT, Neu5Gc, B4Gal) have each protective effects on lung survival and function. The use of these transgenes in multitransgenic donor organs, targeting several known xenogeneic rejection mechanisms, combined with drug treatments addressing remaining known rejection pathways, have led to prolonged recipient survival of up to 31 days with in some cases preserved live-supporting organ function of the transplanted graft for several days. Pulmonary vascular resistance elevation, which has been found to be associated with high thromboxane levels and has been the major failure reason of xenogeneic lung grafts in the past years, has been successfully attenuated by the addition of a thromboxane synthase inhibitor (1-Benzylimidazole). Currently, the predominant failure mechanism of xenogeneic lung grafts is an inflammatory process, leading to vascular barrier function injury with interstitial and trachea edema. Work with other pig organs in primate models show that regimens based on costimulatory pathway blocking antibodies prolong xenograft function for months to years, suggesting that once initial lung inflammation mechanisms are fully controlled, clinically useful application of pig lung xenografts may be feasible.

Summary The use of multitransgenic donor pigs coupled with drugs targeting complement activation, coagulation, and inflammation have significantly improved the survival of xenogeneic pig lungs both during ex vivo human blood perfusion and in life-supporting in vivo models, and for the first time allowed consistent life-supporting function of lung xenografts. Overcoming delayed loss of vascular barrier function injury appears to be within reach, and will be essential to make lung xenografts a clinically relevant treatment option.

Center for Transplantation Sciences and Division of Cardiac Surgery, Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Lars Burdorf, MD, Center for Transplantation Sciences, Massachusetts General Hospital East, 149 13th Street, 9010A Boston, MA 02129, USA. Tel: +1 617 724 7114; fax: +1 617 726 4067; e-mail:

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