Human beings do not synthesize the glycolyl form of the sialic acid (Neu5Gc) and only express the acetylated form of the sugar, whereas a diet-based intake of Neu5Gc provokes a natural immunization and production of anti-Neu5Gc antibodies in human serum. However, Neu5Gc is expressed on mammal glycoproteins and glycolipids in most organs and cells. We review here the relevance of Neu5Gc and anti-Neu5Gc antibodies in the context of xenotransplantation and the use of animal-derived molecules and products, as well as the possible consequences of a long-term exposure to anti-Neu5Gc antibodies in recipients of xenografts. In addition, the importance of an accurate estimation of the anti-Neu5Gc response following xenotransplantation and the future contribution of knockout animals mimicking the human situation are also assessed.
Keywords: Neu5Gc; anti-Neu5Gc antibody; heart valves; neuraminic acid; pancreatic islets; sialic acid; xenotransplantation.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.