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Can Desirable Immunological Tolerance be Induced in a Recipient who is Unrelated to His or Her Donor?

Can Desirable Immunological Tolerance be Induced in a Recipient who is Unrelated to His or Her Donor?

The Groundbreaking Research of Dr. Joseph Leventhal

Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD, a transplant surgeon at Northwestern Memorial and a highly accomplished researcher, is expanding on the work of Dr. Miller in the realm of immune monitoring and immune tolerance. Whereas Dr. Miller’s investigations involve organ donors and recipients with highly similar DNA, Dr. Leventhal’s studies involve donors and recipients who have no similarities in their DNA. Like Dr. Miller, Dr. Leventhal has received essential philanthropic support for his work, and he is achieving fascinating results. For example, Dr. Leventhal has successfully induced a specific, desirable immunological response in transplant recipients. Further, a number of Dr. Leventhal’s patients have not required immunosuppressant medications for the first year post-transplantation.

Highlights of Dr. Leventhal’s revolutionary research include the following:

  • In collaboration with a researcher at the University of Louisville, Dr. Leventhal is exploring a means by which a transplant recipient’s immune system could be made to look and act like the immune system of a non-related (i.e., no DNA similarities) donor.
  • To further this investigation, Dr. Leventhal and his colleague have created a special protocol, whereby the recipient becomes “chimeric” in terms of his or her immune system. That is, the recipient’s immune system is carefully manipulated, such that it ultimately develops characteristics of the recipient’s original immune system and the donor’s immune system, making it friendly to both the recipient and the transplanted kidney.

This “hybrid” nature of the recipient’s immune system appears to increase the chances that the recipient’s body will accept, rather than reject, a transplanted organ. However, as Dr. Leventhal observes, this solution to a complex problem (i.e., how to prevent organ rejection in a recipient who is unrelated to his or her donor) is just the first step in an intricate process of investigation and discovery.