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October 23, 2009

Chicago -

The thousands of people affected by organ failure – and their family and friends  – wonder what the medical future holds for them. What are the latest research advances that may benefit them and future generations?

They’ll find out from top Northwestern organ transplant experts on Oct. 28 in a rare public event celebrating the launch of the Northwestern University Comprehensive Transplant Center. The center will focus on breakthroughs in research to enhance the clinical care of patients.

Doctors and scientists will talk -– in understandable language -- about the new perspectives and breakthroughs in transplant research at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Then, at a wine and appetizer reception, people can chat personally with transplant experts at six specialty stations where each researcher’s expertise will be displayed on a sign. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions.

The free event begins at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, 303 E. Superior St., Chicago. First, there will be two talks about transplant research in the Baldwin Auditorium. Then, at 4 p.m. in the Hughes Auditorium, scientists will discuss the new transplant center, followed by the reception.

Research at the new transplant center, a partnership between Northwestern’s Feinberg School and the Kovler Organ Transplantation Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, will focus on improving the quality of life and outcomes for patients with organ transplantation as well as extending the life of their organs. The scope of the research will be on transplants of the kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, bone marrow and stem cells.

“This center will accelerate our progress and have a strong impact on how we deliver medical care for adult and pediatric transplant patients today and in the future,” said Dixon Kaufman, M.D., the deputy director of the new transplant center and the director of pancreas and islet transplantation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Michael Abecassis, M.D., director of the transplant center, noted, "It will stimulate new collaborations not just at Northwestern but also between the various academic centers in Chicago and nationwide." Abecassis also is the J. Roscoe Miller Distinguished Professor in surgery and microbiology/immunology at the Feinberg School and chief of transplantation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Some of the causes of organ failure -- diabetes, hypertension and fatty liver disease -- are on the rise. "This is a critical time to push ahead for new discoveries in transplant research," Abecassis said.

Some of the futuristic and current research at Northwestern that will be discussed at the event includes:

1) How cellular transplants, regenerative medicine and bioartificial tissue and organ development are creating future therapies for tissue and organ failure by restoring physiological function. For example, there are efforts to find a cure for diabetes with a new generation of islet cell transplantation. With a tremendous shortage of organs available (about 100,000 people on the waiting list for organs but only an estimated 25,000 transplants performed annually), improving and restoring the function of diseased tissue and organs beyond conventional transplantation is critical.

2) A personalized medicine approach to monitor the precise state of a patient’s immune system in order to tailor the immunosuppressant dose to precisely what a patient needs. The powerful drugs that prevent an organ from being rejected also put a patient at risk for infections and cancer, so doctors want to give them the lowest dose possible.

3) Research in combined kidney and bone marrow transplantation with the goal being to reduce and perhaps eventually eliminate immunosuppressant drugs.

4) Broad collaborative research in outcomes and health services research related to transplantation. This includes research to improve patient safety, assess improvements in quality of life after transplantation and advance and inform heath care policy. This collaboration brings together investigators from transplantation, social sciences, psychology, engineering and other disciplines to advance this field.

Media Contact:

Megan McCann

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011