BIOMARKERS OF OPERATIONAL TOLERANCE IN SOLID ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION.
Heidt S., Wood KJ.
INTRODUCTION: Long-term immunosuppressive therapy represents a huge burden on transplant recipients, but currently cannot be omitted. Improving long-term transplant outcome by immunosuppressive drug withdrawal may be achieved in patients who have developed (partial) immunological unresponsiveness towards their graft, either spontaneously or through tolerance induction. Reliable biomarkers are essential to define such immunological unresponsiveness and will facilitate controlled immunosuppressive drug weaning as well as provide surrogate end-points for tolerance induction trials. AREAS COVERED: Tolerance biomarkers have been defined for both liver and kidney transplantation and can accurately identify operationally tolerant transplant recipients retrospectively. These two tolerance fingerprints are remarkably different, indicating the involvement of distinct mechanisms. Limited data suggest that tolerance biomarkers can be detected in immunosuppressed transplant recipients. Whether these patients can safely have their immunosuppressive drugs withdrawn needs to be established. EXPERT OPINION: Mechanistic interpretation of the kidney transplant tolerance biomarker profile dominated by B cell markers remains a challenge in light of experimental evidence suggesting the pivotal involvement of regulatory T cells. Therefore, defining animal models that resemble human transplant tolerance is crucial in understanding the underlying mechanisms. Additionally, to ensure patient safety while monitoring for tolerance, it is essential to develop biomarkers to non-invasively detect early signs of rejection as well.