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New technique could boost corneal transplant acceptance rates

Jan 3rd 2014 at 8:58 PM

New research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas has detailed a new technique that may be able to boost patients' acceptance rates of corneal transplants. This is according to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation. A corneal transplant, also referred to as a corneal graft, is an operation involving the removal of all or part of a damaged cornea. Using healthy corneal tissue from a suitable donor, the damaged cornea is replaced.

According to the Eye Bank Association of America, approximately 42,624 corneal transplants were carried out in the US last year. The research team, led by Dr. Khrishen Cunnusamy, says that for approximately 10% of patients who undergo corneal transplants, their bodies reject the donor. Because of this, they say the chances of a second transplant being successful for these patients are poor. With this in mind, the team conducted a mouse study in an attempt to develop a method to increase patients' acceptance rate of corneal transplants

Deactivation of IFN-y and MHC matching '90% successful' The investigators found that when they blocked the action of interferon-gamma (IFN-y) - an immune system molecule - corneal transplants were accepted in 90% of cases for mice who had the same major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genotype as their donor.

Previous studies have suggested that IFN-y triggers immune system rejection of corneal transplants, and that deactivating the molecule may improve transplant acceptance rates. But the investigators explain that this most recent study suggests otherwise. They found that when IFN-y was deactivated and the MHC of the mice were not matched, this resulted in a 100% rejection rate. This indicates that IFN-y can both activate and suppress the immune system, but its action relies on the MHC genotype. Commenting on the findings, Dr. Jerry Niederkorn, professor of Opthalmology and Microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern and senior author of the study, says:

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