The present study examined the potential of orally induced tolerance for preventing immunological rejection of corneal allografts. Orthotopic corneal allografts were transplanted from either C3H (MHC + multiple minor H- mismatched) or NZB (multiple minor H-mismatched only) donors to CB6F1 recipients on day 0. Tissue cultured corneal epithelial and endothelial cells from relevant donor strains were administered orally from day -14 to day -4 on a daily basis. The incidence of graft rejection, graft mean survival time (MST), and alloimmune responses, and the antigen specificity of induced tolerance were studied. Oral immunization induced a remarkable tolerance such that only 55% of the orally immunized hosts rejected their fully allogeneic corneal grafts (MST = 43 days) compared with 100% rejection (MST = 18 days) in normal controls. Likewise, rejection of MHC-matched, multiple minor H- mismatched corneal grafts fell from 80% in untreated controls to 36% in orally immunized hosts. Oral immunization was effective in desensitizing previously immunized hosts. Rejection of MHC-matched, multiple H minor- mismatched corneal allografts fell from 93% in preimmune, unfed hosts to 36% in preimmune, orally tolerized mice. Thus, oral immunization is a safe and effective method for desensitizing high-risk, preimmune hosts and promoting corneal allograft survival.
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