Successful kidney transplants rely on the biological compatibility of the donor and recipient but still require long-term use of drugs to tamp down the recipient’s immune system and prevent donor organ rejection. Finding a method to increase compatibility can help recipients tolerate a life-saving organ transplant without the lifelong need for anti-rejection medications.

A relatively recent approach that improves donor and recipient biocompatibility induces tolerance by combining irradiation of part of the kidney recipient’s immune system and an infusion of donor immune cells. This creates a dual immune system in the recipient. However, this approach has only been successful when important features of the donor’s and recipient’s immune systems are identical matches.

Transplant specialists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Stanford University have developed the new approach, described in a non-human primate model, that may help kidney transplant prospects even when they are less closely matched to donors and in the absence of immunosuppressant drugs.

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