The role of regulatory T cells in blood during acute heart transplant rejection
Patients receive heart transplants as a life-saving measure after heart failure; thus, ensuring the success of the transplant is of utmost importance. Rejection is a primary cause for heart transplant failure, and consequently, patients must take drugs that suppress the immune system to prevent rejection. However, these drugs are highly unspecific and cause serious side effects that can be life-threatening. New immunosuppressive drugs that can prevent transplant rejection while allowing normal immune function can greatly improve care and patient outcomes. One type of immune cells called regulatory T cells (Tregs) can effectively suppress the immune system in a highly specific manner. We believe these cells can be effective in preventing and treating acute rejection. Working toward such a goal, our research plan is to first understand how Tregs behave during rejection. We will track their activities by measuring 46 genes in the blood of heart transplant patients throughout the first year post-operation. These genes provide valuable information on the risk of acute rejection at a given time and on changing Treg responses.