One of the (many) modern miracles of science is the fact that doctors can now take human organs and transplant them into new hosts, which can greatly extend their lives. One of the details that does not get much play on television dramas, however, is that the host body views the donated organ as invading tissue, and attacks it. As a result, recipients have to take strong drugs to weaken their immune systems to try to prevent this rejection. These drugs can have severe side effects, creating unwanted results in other parts of the body.
Researchers at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea have come up with a possible solution to the problem. They have developed a system that can deliver the immunosuppressive drugs directly at the site of the transplant, eliminating the need to dose the patient’s entire body with the chemicals. The researchers have created hydrogel microspheres containing cyclosporine A (CsA), a common treatment to suppress immune systems. They then developed a way to print an implantable device using a 3D printer that they then fill with the CsA microspheres. The result is a time-release device that can be implanted next to a transplanted organ and release the CsA.
Their work will be published in an upcoming issue of Cell Transplantation. They conducted trials with rats, and found that the device could release effective doses of the drug for four weeks. This same drug delivery system could have applications for other medical situations, such as treating muscular dystrophy or certain forms of heart disease.