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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02666

Third-party allogeneic mesenchymal stromal cells prevent rejection in a pre-sensitized high-risk model of corneal transplantation

  • 1The Regenerative Medicine Institute, National University of Ireland, Ireland
  • 2Discipline of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, School of Medicine, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, National University of Ireland, Ireland
  • 3CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices, Ireland

High-risk cornea transplant recipients represent a patient population with significant un-met medical need for more effective therapies to prevent immunological graft rejection due to heightened anti-donor immune response. In this study, a rat model of pre-existing anti-donor immunity was developed in which corneal allografts were rejected earlier than in non-pre-sensitized recipients. In this model, third-party (non-donor, non-recipient strain) allogeneic mesenchymal stromal cells (allo-MSC) were administered intravenously 7 and 1 days prior to transplantation. Rejection-free graft survival to 30 days post-transplant improved from 0% to 63.6% in MSC-treated compared to vehicle-treated control animals (p = <0.0001). Pre-sensitized animals that received third-party allo-MSC prior to transplantation had significantly higher proportions of CD45+CD11b+ B220+ monocytes in the lungs 24 hours after the second MSC injection and significantly higher proportions of CD4+ FoxP3+ regulatory T cells in the graft-draining lymph nodes at the average day of rejection of control animals. In in vitro experiments, third-party allo-MSC polarised primary lung-derived CD11b/c+ myeloid cells to a more anti-inflammatory phenotype, as determined by cytokine profile and conferred them with the capacity to suppress T cell activation via prostaglandin E2 and TGFβ1. In experiments designed to further validate the clinical potential of the protocol, thawed cryopreserved, third-party allo-MSC were shown to be similarly potent at prolonging rejection-free corneal allograft survival as their freshly-cultured counterparts in the pre-sensitized high-risk model. Furthermore, thawed cryopreserved third-party allo-MSC could be co-administered with mycophenolate mofetil without adversely affecting their immunomodulatory function. In conclusion, a clinically-relevant protocol consisting of two intravenous infusions of third-party allo-MSC during the week prior to transplantation, exerts a potent anti-rejection effect in a pre-sensitized rat model of high-risk corneal allo-transplantation. This immune regulatory effect is likely to be mediated in the immediate post-transplant period through the promotion, by allo-MSC, of alternatively-activated macrophages in the lung and, later, by enhanced regulatory T-cell numbers.

Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cells, bone marrow, corneal transplant, high-risk, pre-sensitisation, Regulatory T (Treg) cells, Immunomodulation activity, Third-party

Received: 27 Aug 2018; Accepted: 29 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Djordje Miljkovic, Institute for Biological Research Sinisa Stankovic, University of Belgrade, Serbia

Reviewed by:

Alain Le Moine, Free University of Brussels, Belgium
Joana P. Miranda, Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal  

Copyright: © 2018 Lohan, Murphy, Treacy, Lynch, Morcos, Chen, Ryan, Griffin and Ritter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Thomas Ritter, The Regenerative Medicine Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland,