Will previous palliative surgery for congenital heart disease be detrimental to subsequent pig heart xenotransplantation?

Academic Article


  • Introduction: Pig heart xenotransplantation might act as a bridge in infants with complex congenital heart disease (CHD) until a deceased human donor heart becomes available. Infants develop antibodies to wild-type (WT, i.e., genetically-unmodified) pig cells, but rarely to cells in which expression of the 3 known carbohydrate xenoantigens has been deleted by genetic engineering (triple-knockout [TKO] pigs). Our objective was to test sera from children who had undergone palliative surgery for complex CHD (and who potentially might need a pig heart transplant) to determine whether they had serum cytotoxic antibodies against TKO pig cells. Methods: Sera were obtained from children with CHD undergoing Glenn or Fontan operation (n = 14) and healthy adults (n = 8, as controls). All of the children had complex CHD and had undergone some form of cardiac surgery. Seven had received human blood transfusions and 3 bovine pericardial patch grafts. IgM and IgG binding to WT and TKO pig red blood cells (RBCs) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were measured by flow cytometry, and killing of PBMCs by a complement-dependent cytotoxicity assay. Results: Almost all children and adults demonstrated relatively high IgM/IgG binding to WT RBCs, but minimal binding to TKO RBCs (p < 0.0001 vs WT), although IgG binding was greater in children than adults (p < 0.01). All sera showed IgM/IgG binding to WT PBMCs, but this was much lower to TKO PBMCs (p < 0.0001 vs WT) and was greater in children than in adults (p < 0.05). Binding to both WT and TKO PBMCs was greater than to RBCs. Mean serum cytotoxicity to WT PBMCs was 90% in both children and adults, whereas to TKO PBMCs it was only 20% and < 5%, respectively. The sera from 6/14 (43%) children were cytotoxic to TKO PBMCs, but no adult sera were cytotoxic. Conclusions: Although no children had high levels of antibodies to TKO RBCs, 13/14 demonstrated antibodies to TKO PBMCs, in 6 of these showed mild cytotoxicity. As no adults had cytotoxic antibodies to TKO PBMCs, the higher incidence in children may possibly be associated with their exposure to previous cardiac surgery and biological products. However, the numbers were too small to determine the influence of such past exposures. Before considering pig heart xenotransplantation for children with CHD, testing for antibody binding may be warranted.
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    Author List

  • Oscherwitz M; Nguyen HQ; Raza SS; Cleveland DC; Padilla LA; Sorabella RA; Ayares D; Maxwell K; Rhodes LA; Cooper DKC
  • Volume

  • 74