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Immunosuppression for liver transplantation
  1. E K Geissler,
  2. H J Schlitt
  1. Department for Surgery, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
  1. Professor E K Geissler, Department of Surgery, Regensburg University Medical Center, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, 93053 Regensburg, Germany; edward.geissler{at}


In the last few decades liver transplantation (LTx) has become a reliable life-saving procedure for patients with chronic end-stage liver diseases. LTx has an outstanding success rate in the first few years after allografting, especially considering that many patients are on the brink of survival at the time of transplantation. The success of LTx is owed to the pioneers who developed the surgical procedures and to researchers who discovered the medications to help prevent immunological rejection of allografts. However, several problems continue to impose serious limits on LTx today, including a shortage of donor livers, recurrence of disease (eg, hepatitis, hepatocellular cancer), preservation of long-term allograft function and the side effects of anti-rejection drugs. While the dilemma of organ shortage is not a focus of this review, we will address the latter issues as they relate to the “oldest” and “newest” approaches to immunosuppression, and discuss the prospect that recipients could potentially be made immunologically tolerant to liver transplants. Due to the critical shortage of organs, new strategies to preserve transplanted liver allografts for the longest possible time are of paramount importance.

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  • Funding: The authors wish to thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (GE 1188/1-1) and the EU FP6 integrated project devoted to Reprogramming the Immune System for the Establishment of Tolerance (RISET) for their grant support related to the concepts discussed in this article.

  • Competing interests: Declared (the declaration can be viewed on the Gut website at