Concentrated human immunoglobulin (IVIG) has been administered intravenously in the treatment of autoimmune disorders and to reduce anti-HLA antibodies in highly sensitized patients awaiting organ transplantation. It has also been shown, in experimental animals, to prevent the hyperacute rejection of discordant xenografts, possibly by anticomplement activity. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of IVIG therapy on both acquired anti-HLA antibodies and natural antigalactose α1-3 galactose (αGal) antibodies in five patients awaiting heart transplantation. Five patients placed on mechanical circulatory support who had developed high HLA panel-reactive antibodies (PRA) or in whom the percentage of PRA was increasing rapidly were treated weekly with 500 mg/kg IVIG, which contained 1% of anti-αGal IgG. Levels of PRA, anti-αGal IgG and IgM, and serum cytotoxicity to pig cells were measured before, during, and after therapy. PRA percentages in the five patients were initially 85%, 53%, 23%, 19% and 19% (mean 39%). Mean PRA fell by 66% after 3 months of therapy (to a mean PRA of 14%), and by 96% after 6 months therapy (to a mean PRA of 2%). Anti-αGal antibody levels and serum cytotoxicity to pig aortic endothelial cells did not change significantly. These results confirm the effectiveness of IVIG therapy in reducing PRA in HLA highly sensitized patients. It is likely that IVIG does not contain the relevant anti-HLA antibody, resulting in an accelerated catabolism of native alloantibodies. However, as IVIG contains a normal level of anti-αGal IgG, catabolism of anti-αGal IgG is not modified, as it is being continuously replaced. To achieve a decrease in the anti-αGal IgG level it would be necessary to use IVIG depleted of this antibody.
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