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Natural Antibodies Prevent In Vivo Transmission of Porcine Islet-Derived Endogenous Retrovirus to Human Cells

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The discovery of porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERV) has raised concerns regarding the safety of porcine xenotransplantation. However, transmission of PERV had not been observed in humans exposed to porcine tissue. We examined whether PERV derived from porcine pancreatic islet cells could infect human cells in vivo and the role of natural antibodies in inhibiting PERV infection. In vivo infective potential of PERV was studied in SCID mice reconstituted with human peripheral blood leucocytes. Porcine islets were transplanted under the kidney capsule. PERV infection was determined by analyzing PERV gene expression in graft infiltrating lymphocytes (GIL) harvested 21 days posttransplantation. Mice were administered normal human serum prior to and 2 days posttransplantation to study their role in protection of human cells against PERV infection. PERV genes were expressed in all porcine tissues examined, including purified porcine islets. PERV expression was detected in GILs from three of five human-SCID mice. Administration of human serum blocked PERV infection in GILs in five of five human-SCID mice. These results indicate that PERV from porcine islets can infect human cells in vivo. Normal human serum blocks transmission of retrovirus in vivo, suggesting that natural xenoreactive antibodies can prevent PERV infection.

Keywords: Immunity; Natural antibodies; Porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV); Porcine islets; Real-time PCR; Xenotransplantation

Document Type: Review Article


Affiliations: *Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

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