Intervention strategies and agents mediating the prevention of xenorejection

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Nov;1056:123-43. doi: 10.1196/annals.1352.028.


Xenotransplantation, the transplantation of cells, tissues, and/or organs across species, has proven to be an enormous challenge, resulting in only limited achievements over the last century. Unlike allotransplantation, the immunologic barriers involved in xenotransplant rejection are aggressive and usually occur within minutes in a hyperacute fashion. The use of organs from phylogenetically related concordant species may not be practical. Discordant xenotransplantation is characterized by hyperacute graft rejection, and to use nonprimate discordant organs for human benefit will require manipulation of the taxonomic differences. The hyperacute rejection process is primarily due to the attachment of preformed xenoreactive antibodies to the donor vascular endothelium, which results in hyperactivation of the complement system beyond the control of the natural complement regulatory proteins. Understanding the complex and diverse immune components involved in hyperacute, acute, and accelerated rejections has resulted in the development of different hematologic and molecular strategies. Plasmapheresis has been used to remove xenoantibodies, and xenoperfusion techniques are used to create a suitable and familiar environment for the xenograft. Various molecular approaches, such as the development of transgenic animals expressing human complement regulatory proteins such as CD59 or decay accelerating factor (DAF), to downregulate complement activation or the production of pigs lacking the xenoreactive antigen by knockout of the Gal alpha-1,3-galactosyl transferase gene have also been attempted. A combination of these techniques together with the administration of soluble complement inhibitors such as the vaccinia virus complement control protein (VCP) may well contribute to prolong graft survival. However, various issues including the possible emergence of new viral infections have confounded the topic of xenotransplantation. Here the different modulatory approaches and agents mediating interventions in xenorejection are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Heterophile / immunology
  • Antithrombin III
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Chronic Disease
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Thrombin
  • Thrombosis / prevention & control
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / immunology*
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Antibodies, Heterophile
  • Antithrombin III
  • Thrombin