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Open Access Review

The immunomodulatory role of carbon monoxide during transplantation

Mariane Tami Amano and Niels Olsen Saraiva Camara*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Transplantation Immunobiology, Department of Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Medical Gas Research 2013, 3:1  doi:10.1186/2045-9912-3-1

Published: 7 January 2013

Abstract

The number of organ and tissue transplants has increased worldwide in recent decades. However, graft rejection, infections due to the use of immunosuppressive drugs and a shortage of graft donors remain major concerns. Carbon monoxide (CO) had long been regarded solely as a poisonous gas. Ultimately, physiological studies unveiled the endogenous production of CO, particularly by the heme oxygenase (HO)-1 enzyme, recognizing CO as a beneficial gas when used at therapeutic doses. The protective properties of CO led researchers to develop uses for it, resulting in devices and molecules that can deliver CO in vitro and in vivo. The resulting interest in clinical investigations was immediate. Studies regarding the CO/HO-1 modulation of immune responses and their effects on various immune disorders gave rise to transplantation research, where CO was shown to be essential in the protection against organ rejection in animal models. This review provides a perspective of how CO modulates the immune system to improve transplantation and suggests its use as a therapy in the field.

Keywords:
CO; HO-1; Immune response; Transplant