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Pitt Researchers to Present Findings at 2013 American Transplant Congress

SEATTLE, May 22, 2013 – Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh presented findings of studies related to organ donation and transplant at the 2013 American Transplant Congress (ATC) in Seattle from May 18 to 22. The annual meeting is a showcase of the latest basic science and clinical research in transplantation.
Nine projects from Pitt received ATC Young Investigator Awards. Among the many talks and poster presentations by Pitt faculty and students, Timothy Billiar, M.D., George Vance Foster Endowed Professor, distinguished professor of surgery, and chair, Department of Surgery; Fadi Lakkis, M.D., Frank & Athena Sarris Chair in Transplantation Biology, professor of surgery, Pitt School of Medicine, and scientific director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute; David M. Rothstein, M.D., Pittsburgh Steelers Chair in Transplantation, and professor of surgery; and Heth R. Turnquist, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery, were among those who delivered invited lectures.
Oral presentations included:

Promoting Regulatory B Cell Response Improves Donor Tissue Survival

Qing Ding, Ph.D., research associate, Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, and colleagues at Pitt and Harvard University, showed that regulatory B cells, which suppress rather than stimulate antibody responses to foreign proteins, can be induced to enhance survival of donor tissue in an animal model of islet cell transplantation. This project received an ATC Young Investigator Award and was selected for presentation at a plenary session.

Psychosocial Outcomes Three to Nine Years after Living Liver Donation

Mary Amanda Dew, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, psychology, epidemiology, and biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of Clinical Epidemiology Program at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, led a study into living liver donors’ perceptions of the consequences of donation on their well-being in the long-term. The review of more than 516 donors found that as many as 31 percent were worried about future health concerns and 15 percent had experienced a financial burden due to the cost of donation. However, 43 percent reported at least moderate levels of personal growth due to liver donation and as many as 88 percent reported positive feelings about themselves due to donation.

Liver Preservation with Machine Perfusion under Full Oxygenation Using a New Cell-Free Oxygen-Carrier Solution

Paulo Fontes, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, led a pre-clinical large animal study of machine perfusion under below-normal body temperature conditions with a new hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC) solution in a dual-pressure system for liver preservation. The study found that machine perfusion at 21°C with a new HBOC solution provides effective oxygenation to liver allografts over an extended period of time and that machine perfusion with full oxygenation was safe for these large animals.

Regulatory Dendritic Cells Could Encourage Transplant Tolerance

Mohamed Ezzelarab, M.D., research assistant professor of surgery, and his colleagues at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute and Pitt, showed that dendritic cells, which identify foreign proteins or antigens to the immune system for targeting, can help suppress an immune reaction to a donor kidney in a pre-clinical large animal model when combined with anti-rejection drugs. The findings indicate that regulatory dendritic cells could have therapeutic potential for transplantation.

Regulatory T Cells Play a Role in Transplant Tolerance

Geoffrey Camirand, Ph.D., research assistant professor of surgery, Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, showed that antigen-experienced regulatory T cells suppress the activity of effector T cells that trigger rejection of transplanted tissues. The project, which provides new insights into the mechanisms of transplant tolerance, received an ATC Young Investigator Award and was selected for presentation at a plenary session.

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