A team of scientists from the UCLA Departments of Surgery and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine have been awarded a three-year, $2 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to fund research aimed at increasing the quality of donor livers.
Dr. Jerzy W. Kupiec-Weglinski, principal investigator for the project and director of the Dumont-UCLA Transplantation Research Center, said he hopes his research will address the decreasing quality of donor organs and a widening disparity between the increasing numbers of potential transplant recipients and inadequate donor organ supply.
The major factor contributing to the decrease in organ quality is the aging donor population, and conditions associated with aging that make the liver less desirable. These "suboptimal" organs are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI), innate immune-mediated tissue damage that occurs during organ harvesting from cadaver sources and during periods of extended cold preservation. Even if successfully transplanted, these marginal livers experience a high incidence of early dysfunction and late rejection.
Kupiec-Weglinski's project seeks to upend the current dogma - treating transplant patients with cocktails of relatively non-specific immunosuppressive agents to prevent organ rejection.