Using rats of the Lewis and BN (Ag-B locus incompatible) isogenic strains, a comparative study has been made of the capacity to prevent or mitigate the development of runt disease with: (a) lymph node cell suspensions from normal adult BN rats, (b) node cells, or (c) serum from donors sensitized against Lewis tissue antigens, or (d) heterologous anti-lymphocyte serum (ALS) raised in rabbits against rat thymocytes.
Following a standard intravenous or intraperitoneal inoculation of 20 x 106 Lewis node cells into neonatal BN hosts, there are cutaneous manifestations of runt disease within 11–15 days and death invariably takes place within 20 days. However, complete protection is afforded by administration of a similar number of normal BN node cells via a different vein, or admixed with the otherwise harmful Lewis node cells. However, timing of the administration was crucially important—precedence or delay by as little as 4 hr resulted in a great impairment of protection. When the inoculations of the two cell suspensions were separated by 24 hr, no protection was afforded. These and other observations suggested that a necessary condition for protection of the hosts by unsensitized isologous cells requires that they establish a prompt and intimate confrontation with the homologous target cells.
At the same dosage level, suspensions of node cells from sensitized isologous donors were much more effective therapeutically, saving the lives of 92% of treated subjects when administered after a delay of 3 days, and of 19% when the delay was 4 or 5 days.
Of the various immunotherapeutic agents studied, daily injections of 0.2 ml of isoantiserum gave the best results, and could totally reverse the course of the disease even when initiated at age 10–13 days and subjects already presented symptoms. ALS, although inferior to isoantiserum at the dosage levels tested, proved to be superior to sensitized isologous cells as a protective agent, since the initiation of daily injections after delays of 6 or 8 days were still effective.
The observations that delayed treatments of infant rats with isoantisera or ALS resulted in complete recoveries sustain the thesis that the lesions responsible for the fatal outcome of runt diseases are not inflicted at a very early stage. The efficacy of both isoantisera and ALS as a means of inhibiting the progression of homologous disease also suggests that they may have therapeutic value in situations where this condition is encountered.