The researchers, from Washington University School of Medicine and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explained that early lung damage typically occurs 72 hours after surgery.
The damage, they say, typically occurs after the lung is surgically implanted and the recipient’s blood enters the lung for the first time.
The recipient’ s white blood cells seep into the newly transplanted lung and trigger inflammation that harms the organ’ s tissue.
The researchers say the condition is a major reason the success of lung transplants trails behind other solid organ transplants.
“More than 50 percent of lung transplant patients experience some lung damage after a transplant,” said Daniel Kreisel, a Washington University professor of surgery and of immunology and pathology.
“Understanding the mechanisms of this damage is important in developing novel therapeutic agents to treat or prevent the condition in lung transplant patients.”
Five years after lung transplantation, only about half of the transplanted lungs are still functioning, according to the US Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, as against the five-year organ survival rates of about 70 to 80 percent for liver, heart and kidney transplants.
The study was published online in the journal of clinical investigation.