Research

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Faculty Research

The researchers at the Transplant Research Program are maximizing our potential to accelerate discovery and ultimately to improve care for pediatric transplant patients. Highlights of faculty projects include:

  • Dr. David Briscoe has a long-standing interest in the understanding of chronic allograft rejection, and is studying responses within the graft microenvironment that both sustain and resolve chronic rejection. He identified Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) as a central component of chronic rejection, and he studies how local VEGF and related molecules function within the graft. This work has resulted in new basic discoveries of therapeutic importance as well as the development of biomarkers that allow for the risk stratification of patients.
  • Dr. Kevin Daly identified a biomarker that predicts the development of chronic rejection at least four years before it occurs in heart transplant recipients. He discussed the impact of his studies in the Spring 2014 edition of the Transplant Talk newsletter.
  • Dr. Paolo Fiorina has been studying innovative ways to treat diabetes using immunosuppression, and his research led to the discovery of a new molecule and compound that has high potential for use as a treatment following transplantation (Vergani et al. Circulation 2013). Furthermore, his studies on this molecule have potential to lead to a biomarker assay that can predict chronic rejection.
  • Dr. Natasha Frank and Dr. Markus Frank identified a stem cell pool that can be harvested from the eye and can be used to grow cornea in vivo. This is one of the first examples of constructing a fully functional human tissue from a molecularly defined adult human stem cell. Application of this research technology has the potential to lead to novel stem cell-based approaches to corneal transplantation and hopefully to other tissues and organs in the future (Ksander et al. Nature 2014).
  • Dr. Soumitro Pal is uncovering novel signaling mechanisms underlying the cause of the increased risk of cancer in transplant recipients (Basu et al. Cancer Letters 2012). His research focuses on how targeted therapies can prevent post-transplantation cancer, and they have given us clues into molecules that may be useful as monitors of early pre-cancer events so that preventative therapy can be initiated. 
  • Dr. Gary Visner has been studying novel approaches for prolonging lung transplant survival. This work has recently identified two agents that prolonged lung allograft survival in the mouse lung transplant model. These agents reduced early injury and rejection, but more importantly, provided longer survival and reduced the development of transplant mediated fibrosis. In addition, they show promise as potential therapies for transplant patients (Liu et al Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2014, Bizargity et al Transplantation 2012).

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