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Transpl Immunol. 2006 Nov;16(3-4):148-57. Epub 2006 Nov 2.

The aetiology and pathogenesis of chronic allograft nephropathy.

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Division of Transplant Surgery, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE5 4PW UK.


Renal transplantation is the ultimate form of renal replacement therapy, and is the treatment of choice for many patients with end-stage renal failure. The advent of calcineurin inhibitor based immunosuppression resulted in the 1-year renal allograft failure rate dropping from around 50% twenty years ago to less than 10% in more recent times. Despite a massive improvement in renal allograft survival in the first year following transplantation 10-year graft survival can be as low as 50%. Chronic allograft nephropathy (CAN) is recognised as the main cause of renal allograft failure following the first year after transplantation. The diagnosis of CAN can only be made histologically. Typically biopsy specimens in grafts with CAN demonstrate an overall fibrotic appearance effecting the vascular endothelium, renal tubules, interstitium, and glomerulus. The risk factors for CAN are divided into alloimmune and alloimmune independent. Alloimmune dependent factors include acute cellular rejection, severity of rejection, subclinical rejection and HLA mismatch. Alloimmune independent factors such as delayed graft function, donor age, Cytomegalovirus infection, donor/recipient co-morbidity and of course calcineurin inhibitor toxicity are important in the development of CAN. The pathogenesis of CAN is complex, multifactorial, and unfortunately incompletely understood. There are a number of pivotal steps in the initiation and propagation of the fibrosis seen in biopsy specimens from kidneys with CAN. Endothelial activation in response to one or more of the aforementioned risk factors stimulates leukocyte activation and recruitment. Recruited leukocytes subsequently infiltrate through the endothelium and induce key effector cells to secrete excessive and abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM). Enhanced deposition of ECM is a histological hallmark of CAN. This paper aims to present a concise yet accurate and up-to-date review of the literature concerning the aetiological factors and pathological processes which are present in the generation of CAN.

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