Author(s): Ezzelarab M, Thomson AW
The pursuit of clinical transplant tolerance has led to enhanced understanding of mechanisms underlying immune regulation, including the characterization of immune regulatory cells, in particular antigen-presenting cells (APC) and regulatory T cells (Treg), that may play key roles in promoting operational tolerance. Dendritic cells (DC) are highly efficient APC that have been studied extensively in rodents and humans, and more recently in non-human primates. Owing to their ability to regulate both innate and adaptive immune responses, DC are considered to play crucial roles in directing the alloimmune response towards transplant tolerance or rejection. Mechanisms via which they can promote central and peripheral tolerance include clonal deletion, the induction of Treg, and inhibition of memory T cell responses. These properties have led to the use of tolerogenic DC as a therapeutic strategy to promote organ transplant tolerance. In rodents, infusion of donor- or recipient-derived tolerogenic DC can extensively prolong donor-specific allograft survival, in association with regulation of the host T cell response. In clinical transplantation, progress has been made in monitoring DC in relation to graft outcome, including studies in operational liver transplant tolerance. Although clinical trials involving immunotherapeutic DC for patients with cancer are ongoing, implementation of human DC therapy in clinical transplantation will require assessment of various critical issues. These include cell isolation and purification techniques, source, route and timing of administration, and combination immunosuppressive therapy. With ongoing non-human primate studies focused on DC therapy, these logistics can be investigated seeking the optimal approaches. The scientific rationale for implementation of tolerogenic DC therapy to promote clinical transplant tolerance is strong. Evaluation of technical and therapeutic logistic issues is an important next step prior to the application of tolerogenic DC in clinical organ transplantation.