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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Bone marrow rejection risk 'minimised'
Rejection is a risk of transplant surgery
Scientists have developed a technique which may prevent or reduce the risk of rejection of transplanted bone marrow.

The method, which has been successfully tested on mice, could lead to safer and more effective bone marrow transplant operations.

A team from a Seattle cancer centre has found a way to block a type of white blood cell known as a T-cell.

These cells recognise and destroy abnormal or infected cells, and play a crucial role in attacking infections invading the body.

The next step is human trials and now we can quickly move forward to these trials

Dr Claudio Anasetti, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre

They also prevent the body's immune system from attacking normal tissue.

T-cells are to blame when the body turns against transplanted bone marrow, and starts to attack it, leading to rejection of the tissue.

Despite recent advances, rejection, or graft-versus-host disease, is still a major complication for patients recovering from bone marrow transplantation - a treatment for many people with leukaemia, lymphoma and genetic disorders.

Blocking signals

Scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre found that the activity of T-cells could be limited by treating them with a substance known as an anti-CD28 antibody.

This antibody stops the T-cells from recognising chemical signals from transplanted bone marrow that would be interpreted as a threat.

The researchers said CD28 antibodies may be safer and more effective in preventing transplant reactions than other immunity-suppressing drugs.

The effect of anti-CD28 is restricted to those T-cells that would otherwise attack transplanted material.

The body's immune response to other infections is not affected.

Lead researcher Dr Claudio Anasetti said the technique could potentially also help reduce or prevent rejection of other tissues.

It might also help treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

He said: "So far our research has focused on mouse models, the next step is human trials and now we can quickly move forward to these trials."

Dr Joanna Reynolds, science information manager for the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "Bone marrow transplants form a very important part of treatment for many patients with leukaemia and lymphoma.

"It is encouraging that there may be new methods of reducing the risk of complications in this procedure but more research is needed."

Anne Parish, of the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust, welcomed the research.

She said: "Our own Research Institute, headed by Professor Alejandro Madrigal, is also currently making great strides in this field.

"We all at the Trust hope that one day all bone marrow transplants can be undertaken with the knowledge that rejection is no longer a threat to recovery."

The research is published in the Journal of Immunology.

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