Researchers take a step forward in transplanting pig cells to regenerate human cartilage

February 22, 2012, IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute

Researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) have studied for the first time the response of human NK cells (Natural Killer) against porcine chondrocytes (cartilage cells).

The results of the research, published in The Journal of Immunology, indicate that these cells, characteristic of the , play an important role in the rejection of xenotransplantation (transplantation from another species) of porcine chondrocytes.

NK cells

Together with and macrophages, NK cells are part of the first line of cellular defence and they are involved in not-acquired immune response, that is the innate response. NK cells are responsible for identifying specific cell types (tumour, infection or foreign to the body) and destroying them by toxicity.

The number of NK cells is a minority, but their importance is increasing in the field of transplantation, according to the study's lead author, Cristina Costa, "we see that innate immunity plays an important role in regulating acquired immunity, which is critical for the rejection of transplanted organs".

Xenotransplantation

The Costa team's goal is achieving porcine chondrocytes transplantation in humans to repair cartilage injuries. The group have studied "in vitro" the response of human NK cells in the presence of . They noted that under conditions of transplant, high presence of antibodies and cytokines, human NK cells make a cytotoxic response and they lyse (destroy) foreign cells, in this case the chondrocytes.

"In this work we have characterized several molecules involved in the processes of adhesion and of NK cells," explained the researcher, who believes that this work opens the way on how to continue the investigation "on one hand we have to fight the deposition of antibodies that is a critical factor in increasing the toxicity and on the other we must work to reduce by modifying any of the molecules we have involved."

The next step for clinical application of cartilage xenotransplantation proposed by Costa would be "the genetic modification of porcine chondrocytes, so that human don't recognize them as foreigners, thus avoiding rejection."

Transplantation of cartilage

Cartilage transplantation between humans is not been widely applied in the clinic but it has been successful in the regeneration of this tissue in traumatic injuries, especially in athletes. Autologous transplants are performed with cells from the same person and allogenic ones, with cells from another person.

"In both cases," says Costa, "the limitation is the amount of cells available. If we can get cartilage xenotransplantation it would increase the amount and quality of the cells available for transplantation." In the future, according to the researcher, "maybe we could apply the xenotransplantation of pig chondrocytes on osteoarthritis patients or even with rheumatoid arthritis" but, warns Costa, "in these cases there are other combined inflammatory and immune processes hindering the outcome of the transplantation."

Explore further: Natural killer cells could be key to anthrax defense

Related Stories

Natural killer cells could be key to anthrax defense

October 27, 2011
One of the things that makes inhalational anthrax so worrisome for biodefense experts is how quickly a relatively small number of inhaled anthrax spores can turn into a lethal infection. By the time an anthrax victim realizes ...

A new way to stimulate the immune system and fight infection

January 20, 2012
A study carried out by Eric Vivier and Sophie Ugolini at the Marseille-Luminy Centre for Immunology has just reveal a gene in mice which, when mutated, can stimulate the immune system to help fight against tumors and viral ...

Surprising role for suppressive cytokine in antiviral immune responses

September 15, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A molecule normally implicated in restraining immune responses is also capable of stimulating defences against virus infection, according to new research, by promoting the survival of a population of immune ...

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.