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Keywords:

  • Operational tolerance;
  • kidney transplantation;
  • immunosuppression withdrawal

Induction of allograft-specific tolerance and the detection of a “tolerance” state in recipients under immunosuppression with long-term stable graft function are major challenges in transplantation. Clinical “operational tolerance,” defined as stable and acceptable graft function without immunosuppression for years, is a rare event. There is no report on the clinical history of such patients. In this article, we report on the medical history of 10 kidney recipients who display an immunosuppressive drug-free “operational tolerance” for 9.4 ± 5.2 years. Clinical factors that may favor such a tolerant state are underlined. Firstly, most of the patients interrupted immunosuppression over a long time period (until 4 years), which mimics the procedure of intentional immunosuppression weaning following liver transplantation. Secondly, donor age was younger (median 25 years) than the one of the general transplanted population, suggesting that graft quality is one of the conditions favoring “operational tolerance.” Moreover, the “operationally tolerant” recipients may be ‘low responders’ to blood transfusions (PRA 6 ± 5.4%, six blood transfusions). We also show that “operational tolerance” occurs in the presence of anti-donor class II antibodies, as assessed in two patients. Finally, two patients degraded their renal function 9 to 13 years after treatment withdrawal, however only one presented histological lesions of chronic rejection.