Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Stubborn Cells

Donor immune cells called tissue-resident memory T cells remain in transplanted organs and correlate with better outcomes

28 March 2019

Stubborn Cells

When you buy a second-hand car, sometimes it bears traces of its previous owner – lingering smells or forgotten belongings. And when patients receive an organ transplant, they also accept some of the previous owners’ molecular residue. Tissue-resident memory T cells are immune cells restricted to one organ, that come along inside a transplant. Since they don’t flow around the body like other immune cells, we’ve had limited opportunities to study them in humans until a new study looking at 20 lung transplant recipients. They found these specialised residents – highlighted in green in the transplanted lung section pictured – persisting up to a year after transplantation, long after other donor immune cells have gone. Higher levels of these stubborn cells correlated with better patient outcomes, so the study might have found a new indicator of transplant health for doctors, as well as revealing key details about this little-understood facet of the immune system.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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