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Key to stem cell transplant success is tricking immune system


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-BA Festival of Science
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Under embargo for 09:00 BST
Friday 9 September 2005

Tricking the bodys immune system into ignoring stem cells will be the key to successful stem cell transplants, according to Professor Maggie Dallman Opens in new window, Imperial College London, speaking today at the BA Festival of Science.

Professor Dallman is investigating how to trick the body into producing regulatory cells, which prevent the bodys immune system from attacking its own molecules, at the site of a stem cell transplant. If they were present when stem cells were introduced into the body, the regulatory cells would inhibit the bodys natural response to 'foreign' cells, meaning the stem cells would be accepted.

Drug therapies can prevent traditional organ grafts from being destroyed in the short term but organ transplants typically fail after a number of years as the bodys immune system rejects the new tissue. Scientists are hopeful that harnessing regulatory cells would prevent stem cell transplants from facing similar rejection.

Professor Dallman, from Imperials department of Cell and Molecular Biology, explains: "Stem cell transplants will offer fantastic possibilities for helping people with any disease where there is tissue damage or degeneration. It is vital to work out how to prevent these transplants from being rejected.

"We know from over 50 years of experience with transplants that a major issue affecting the success of such procedures is the immune systems rejection of grafted tissue. Our recent experiments suggest that we could use regulatory cells to stop the immune system responding to foreign transplants, whilst leaving the rest of the immune system intact", she adds.

Cloning stem cells using a patient's own cells is another option for preventing the rejection of stem cell transplants. This would have a low risk of rejection because cloned cells would contain the patients own DNA. However, the cost and intricate nature of this procedure means that it may not prove to be a practical option for widespread use, according to Professor Dallman.

For further information please contact:

Laura Gallagher
Press Officer
Communications Division
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6702
Mobile: +44 (0)7803 886 248
E-mail: l.gallagher@imperial.ac.uk

Notes to editors:

1. Professor Maggie Dallman is speaking at a press conference at the BA Festival of Science, Dublin on Friday 9 September 2005 at 9am.

2. Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

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