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UPMC Completes Fourth Hand Transplant Procedure

Unilateral Recipient to be Treated with Novel Immunosuppression Protocol

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 14, 2010 – A 27-year-old New Jersey resident became the fourth patient to receive a hand transplant at UPMC. On Sept. 11, Jessica Arrigo received a unilateral, or single hand, transplant of her right hand and is being treated with the “Pittsburgh Protocol,” an immune modulation therapy that aims to reduce the risks associated with toxic anti-rejection drugs.

“The goal of our program has always been to make hand transplants safer as a viable alternative to prosthetics. With each successful surgery, we are closer to that goal,” said members of the surgical team. The first hand transplant at UPMC was performed in March 2009.

A team of surgeons, critical care specialists, transplant nurses and therapists has cared for Ms. Arrigo since the 12-hour surgery. She will soon begin daily occupational therapy at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute as her physicians monitor her closely for signs of rejection.

“All of our previous hand transplant recipients have been maintained on a low-dose of a single anti-rejection drug and have regained significant function and sensation in their transplanted hands. Thus far, Jessica is recovering well from surgery,” said the surgeons.

Although other surgeons from around the world have performed hand transplants successfully, they have used a conventional protocol of multiple immunosuppressive medications to prevent rejection of the grafts, increasing the risk of diabetes, infections, hypertension and other disorders.

In contrast, surgeons at UPMC have implemented a two-phase protocol that involves initial antibody treatment followed by donor bone marrow cell therapy. The goal is not merely to suppress the immune system, but to change the way it functions. Under the protocol, Ms. Arrigo, who lost her hand five years ago, received antibodies to help overcome the initial overwhelming immune response. That will be followed by a bone marrow infusion from the hand donor within 15 days after the surgery. Hand transplant patients are treated with tacrolimus, a drug that was first used in liver transplants by UPMC’s Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., more than two decades ago to prevent graft rejection.

UPMC, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research and the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) are funding the hand transplant study. Surgeons performed the first unilateral hand transplant at UPMC on March 14, 2009, the first bilateral hand transplant in the U.S. on May 4, 2009 and the second bilateral hand transplant on February 5, 2010.

About UPMC

UPMC is an $8 billion integrated global health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is one of the leading nonprofit health systems in the United States. As western Pennsylvania‘s largest employer, with almost 50,000 employees, UPMC is transforming the economy of the region into one based on medicine, research, and technology. By integrating 20 hospitals, 400 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, long-term care facilities, and a major health insurance services division, and in collaboration with its academic partner, the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC has advanced the quality and efficiency of health care and developed internationally renowned programs in transplantation, cancer, neurosurgery, psychiatry, orthopaedics, and sports medicine, among others. UPMC is commercializing its medical and technological expertise by nurturing new companies, developing strategic business relationships with some of the world‘s leading multinational corporations, and expanding into international markets, including Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Japan. For more information about UPMC, visit our website at

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