January 27, 2016

Since the early 1990s, a team at Yerkes National Primate Research Center has been developing and refining a costimulation blocker that will prevent the immune system from rejecting transplanted organs. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, belatacept, or Nulojix as it’s commonly known, in 2011 for kidney transplants. Ever since, the team has been working to expand the applications of this research to other organs.

As a result of the research team’s success, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease awarded it a $12.6 million grant to continue these efforts.

“Our research is aimed at extending the benefits of costimulation blocker-based regimens to a larger group of transplant patients, and helping them to have longer, healthier lives,” says Christian Larsen, a Yerkes researcher and professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine.

The team’s newest line of research has identified biomarkers on immune cells that may predict whether or not immune cells that are resistant to belatacept will reject the transplant. To determine the predictive ability of these biomarkers, the team will continue working with the nonhuman primates at the Yerkes Research Center.

In addition, researchers will be investigating possible solutions for targeting those costimulation blocker-resistant cells and strategies for preserving the immunity of the organs post-transplant. Such research is key for helping people who have organ transplants live a normal life span.

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