Transgenic pigs designed to express human CD59 and H-transferase to avoid humoral xenograft rejection

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Research in pig-to-primate xenotransplantation aims to solve the increasing shortage of organs for human allotransplantation and develop new cell- and tissue-based therapies. Progress towards its clinical application has been hampered by the presence of xenoreactive natural antibodies that bind to the foreign cell surface and activate complement, causing humoral graft rejection. Genetic engineering of donor cells and animals to express human complement inhibitors such as hCD59 significantly prolonged graft survival. Strategies to decrease the deposition of natural antibodies were also developed. Expression of human α1,2-fucosyltransferase (H transferase, HT) in pigs modifies the cell-surface carbohydrate phenotype resulting in reduced Galα1,3-Gal expression and decreased antibody binding. We have developed transgenic pigs that coexpress hCD59 and HT in various cells and tissues to address both natural antibody binding and complement activation. Functional studies with peripheral blood mononuclear cells and aortic endothelial cells isolated from the double transgenic pigs showed that coexpression of hCD59 and HT markedly increased their resistance to human serum-mediated lysis. This resistance was greater than with cells transgenic for either hCD59 or HT alone. Moreover, transgene expression was enhanced and protection maintained in pig endothelial cells that were exposed for 24 h to pro-inflammatory cytokines. These studies suggest that engineering donor pigs to express multiple molecules that address different humoral components of xenograft rejection represents an important step toward enhancing xenograft survival and improving the prospect of clinical xenotransplantation.

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