In pursuit of xenoreactive antibodies: where has it gotten us?
Numerous studies have aimed to overcome the barrier to xenotransplantation posed by xenoreactive antibodies and the antigens they recognize. Whether this work will eventually lead to the widespread clinical application of xenotransplantation remains unknown. However, the benefits of this research are already substantial, with research leading to dramatic new developments in fields other than xenotransplantation. Our understanding of natural immunity, particularly the nature and function of natural antibodies, has taken quantum leaps forward, with far-reaching implications. Our improved understanding of the immune response to xenografts has proven invaluable in the characterization of the human immune reaction to commonly used biological therapeutics of xenogeneic origin. Our understanding of cell surface carbohydrates and our ability to modify these carbohydrates in living animals has advanced substantially, with implications for diseases such as cancer and autoimmunity. With this in mind, it is argued that continued work in xenotransplantation is of great value, not only because of the great potential benefits of xenotransplantation, but also because of the more certain benefits that arise from setting our sights on a difficult challenge.
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