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Funded Basic and Preclinical Research Programs

The goals of NIAID-supported basic and preclinical research programs in transplantation are to increase understanding of the immune system’s role in transplantation and help inform the design of clinical studies.

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Nonhuman Primate Transplantation Tolerance Cooperative Study Group (NHPCSG)

The NHPCSG is a cooperative program for research on nonhuman primate models of kidney, islet, heart, and lung transplantation. The goals of the NHPCSG are to evaluate the safety and efficacy of existing and new treatment regimens that promote the immune system’s acceptance of a transplant and to understand why the immune system either rejects or does not reject a transplant. This program bridges the critical gap between small-animal research and human clinical trials.

This program is co-sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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Immunobiology of Xenotransplantation Cooperative Research Program (IXCRP)

Xenotransplantation, a procedure in which organs, tissues, or cells from one species are transplanted into another, such as from pigs to humans, is a potential solution to the severe shortage of donor organs and cells. Pigs are the most promising species to use because of their shared anatomic and physiologic characteristics with humans. The primary barriers to successful xenotransplantation are the response of the human immune system to nonhuman tissues and the potential limitations on the proper function of animal organs and cells in people.

The long-term goal of the IXCRP is to develop novel, safe, and effective strategies to make xenotransplantation a reality. The current program is focused on the preclinical development of pig-to-nonhuman primate models of islet, kidney, heart, lung, and liver xenotransplantation. The specific research goals include the following:

  • Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of immune rejection or acceptance of xenotranplanted cells or organs (xenografts)
  • Developing effective treatments or therapies to improve xenograft survival
  • Identifying and addressing any physiological compatibility limitations that may affect xenograft function

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Genomics of Transplantation Cooperative Research Program (GTCRP)

The long-term goals of the GTCRP are to understand the genetic basis of immune-mediated graft rejection and the genetic differences between people and populations of people, such as specific ethnic groups, that may influence transplant success. This information will help inform development of more effective anti-rejection treatments. The specific goals of the GTCRP include the following:

  • Identifying genes or gene-expression patterns that predict transplant outcomes, including the onset and severity of graft rejection
  • Defining genetic variations that predict a person’s response to immunosuppressive medications, thus helping physicians tailor therapy
  • Identifying genes that may help explain why transplantation is more successful in one group over another

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Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) Region Genomics in Immune-Mediated Diseases Consortium

This purpose of this program is to understand how the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genetic region and killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) gene family affect immune-mediated diseases and transplantation outcomes. Studies focus on autoimmune diseases, primary immunodeficiencies, graft-versus-host disease, and graft rejection. Additionally, this program develops methods for high resolution HLA-and KIR-typing.

The sequences of HLA genes and, to a lesser extent, KIR genes differ widely between people and between racial and ethnic groups. Genome-wide studies consistently find association between variations in the HLA region and susceptibility to many autoimmune diseases and differences in transplantation success. Identifying and understanding the role that specific HLA and KIR gene variations play in transplant rejection will help clinicians predict rejection risk and develop targeted treatments to prevent it.

Support for this program also is provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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Nonhuman Primate Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Gene Discovery and Typing Technology Development

Nonhuman primates (NHPs) are the preferred model for vaccine studies, transplantation research, and the evaluation of novel immune therapies because their physiology, immune system, and genes most resemble those of people. The objectives of this program are to enhance immunological research in NHPs by providing detailed knowledge of MHC genes, alleles, loci, and overall genetic organization and by developing technologies to facilitate genotyping of individual research animals. Techniques, reagents, and sequence information obtained through this program will be made freely available to the research community.

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Last Updated June 25, 2012

Last Reviewed June 25, 2012