Publications & Reports

Genetic engineering for xenotransplantation.

Sandrin MS, Loveland BE, IMcKenzie IF
Molecular Immunogenetics Laboratory, The Austin Research Institute, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia. [email protected]


Xenotransplantation is being pursued vigorously to solve the shortage of allogeneic donor organs. Experimental studies of the major xenoantigen (Gal) and of complement regulation enable model xenografts to survive hyperacute rejection. When the Gal antigen is removed or reduced and complement activation is controlled, the major barriers to xenograft survival include unregulated coagulation within the graft and cellular reactions involving macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer (NK) cells, and T lymphocytes. Unlike allografts, where specific immune responses are the sole barrier to graft survival, molecular differences between xenograft and recipient that affect normal receptor-ligand interactions (largely active at the cell surface and which may not be immunogenic), are also involved in xenograft failure. Transgenic strategies provide the best options to control antigen expression, complement activation, and coagulation. Although the Gal antigen can be eliminated by gene knockout in mice, that outcome has only become a possibility in pigs due to the recent cloning of pigs after nuclear transfer. Instead, the use of transgenic glycosyl transferase enzymes and glycosidases, which generate alternative terminal carbohydrates on glycolipids and glycoproteins, has reduced antigen in experimental models. As a result, novel strategies are being tested to seek the most effective solution. Transgenic pigs expressing human complement-regulating proteins (DAF/CD55, MCP/CD46, or CD59) have revealed that disordered regulation of the coagulation system requires attention. There will undoubtedly be other molecular incompatibilities that need addressing. Xenotransplantation, however, offers hope as a therapeutic solution and provides much information about homeostatic mechanisms.


  • Journal: Journal of Cardiac Surgery
  • Published: 01/11/2001
  • Volume: 16
  • Issue: 6
  • Pagination: 448-457