Organ transplantation is a therapy used for end-stage organ failure.
However, there are many more patients in need of transplants than there are donors, and there is intense research into alternative sources of tissue. These include cells and tissues grown in the laboratory, and tissues derived from stem cell transplantation. Patients who have received an organ transplant must take a daily cocktail of medications to prevent rejection by the body's immune system, which would otherwise destroy the newly transplanted tissue in just a few days. Unfortunately, immunosuppressive medications themselves are toxic to many organs and can cause severe side effects, such as increased susceptibility to infection and cancer.
There remains a pressing need to develop new therapeutic strategies to prevent transplant rejection, and this is a very active field of research. In addition, scientists are working to generate patient-specific stem cells to avoid the complications of rejection. Regenerative medicine uses stem cells to grow tissues and organs in the laboratory, and to safely transplant them when the body cannot heal itself. This exciting field has the potential to solve the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation, compared to the number of patients that require life-saving organ transplantation.
Principal Investigators are working on the following challenges in the area of Transplantation:
- Understanding the immune mechanisms used by healthy individuals to protect their own tissue.
- Testing the Institute's small molecule libraries for compounds that promote growth of pancreatic islets. If successful, the newly grown islets can be transplanted into models of diabetes to determine their capacity to reverse diabetes.
- Understanding how migration of transplanted stem cells into the damaged tissues is regulated.
- Developing and testing a device that models the blood circulation, to study how stem cells move towards and into damaged tissues.