Of the tens of thousands of patients currently awaiting kidney transplants in the United States, one third are categorized as highly HLA-sensitized. Until recently, this population had to remain on dialysis for the remainder of their lives. Cedars-Sinai offers these patients hope for a kidney transplant through the Transplant Immunotherapy Program. This groundbreaking program includes immunotherapy treatment first adapted for use in transplantation by Cedars-Sinai researchers.
HLA stands for human leukocyte antigen, which consists of proteins that regulate the way the body recognizes foreign substances. In HLA-sensitized organ recipients, the patient has developed antibodies to the potential donor's HLA. If a transplant takes place, the recipient's immune system would attack the HLA-bearing cells in the donor organ, leading to the organ's failure.
Individuals become HLA-sensitized through pregnancy (women are exposed to foreign tissue from their fetuses), previous organ transplants or blood transfusions.
Transplant immunotherapy reduces HLA sensitivity by adding helpful antibodies to the patient's bloodstream. This lowers the level of HLA-sensitive antibodies and blocks their ability to attack a transplanted organ. Both pediatric and adult recipients of kidney transplants have been treated successfully.
Cedars-Sinai is also conducting clinical trials of transplant immunotherapy medications.