Research in Transplantation

In a little over 50 years, solid organ transplantation has become a common life-saving procedure that is performed more than 100,000 times per year globally. Many of the innovations in surgical procedures, immunosuppression, pathology, and tissue typing enabling this success were driven by the research programs here at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute (STI). During the same time period, allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (AlloHCT), where stem and immune cells from a donor are used to treat cancers and blood disorders, has also became routine.

Despite these successes, there is still plenty of work to be done to reach optimal outcomes for today’s transplant recipients. Unfortunately, numerous barriers such as rejection still remain that prevent one graft from lasting for the lifetime of a solid organ transplant recipient. Likewise, AlloHCT recipients often suffer a condition referred to as Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD), where immune cells needed for engraftment and malignancy cure attack vital recipient tissues.  GVHD also prevents the application of AlloHCT to achieve immunological tolerance in solid organ transplantation.  Moreover, toxicities and side effects of immunosuppression are long-lasting and prevent widespread transplantation of non-life sustaining grafts, such as the face or limbs.

Our research efforts range from making discoveries that answer fundamental questions in transplantation biology to completing innovative translational and clinical studies that shape the immediate future of transplant medicine.