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U of Maryland enters $24 million partnership to develop cardiac xenotrasplantation

By David Schwartz
Published: November 14th, 2017

The University of Maryland and United Therapeutics are looking to take a big leap in the field or organ transplantation based on research coming out of a new partnership. The $24 million deal will help the school establish a center specializing in cardiac xenotransplantation research, the such center in the U.S.

Xenotransplantation refers to the cutting-edge practice of transplanting organs between different species as a way of alleviating a chronic shortage of human organs.

The new center will focus specifically on cardiac xenotransplantation. United is also collaborating with the University of Alabama on research pertaining to kidney xenotransplants, and Columbia-Presbytarian is working with the company on lung xenotransplants.

“Xenotransplantation offers hope to thousands of patients who are currently waiting for heart transplants and most of them die waiting for the human organs,” said Muhammad Mansoor Mohiuddin, director of xenoheart transplantation in the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Xenotransplantation will provide an alternative to the current available treatment options for end-stage organ failure.”

Researchers will be working on transplanting hearts from genetically modified pigs into human bodies. This concept has been the subject of various studies, including a recent project that was centered around cloned pigs, and a Chinese effort that expects to carry out a successful transplant within the next two years.

“This grant thrusts our Transplant Division into an elite group of centers doing cutting-edge xenotransplantation research,” said Dr. Stephan Bartlett, the University of Maryland’s chair of the Department of Surgery. “We now can look forward to exponentially expanding our department’s current and new xeno initiatives, creating an even greater impact in accelerating our trajectory of discovery and innovation in medicine.”

The research is no pie-in-the-sky effort. Mohiuddin said the partners will work to make the  procedure a “clinical reality.” To do that, however, researchers must address some of the difficult barriers to success, most notably the human body’s rejection of animal tissues. That’s where advances in genetic modification come in.

“Due to our ability to genetically modify the pigs to make their organs less immunogenic to humans, and the development of novel immunosuppressive drugs, we are able to prevent or delay rejection,” explained Mohiuddin. Genetic engineering also makes it possible to remove any viruses that might infect humans after the organ has been transplanted.

Source: Futurism

Posted under: Industry-Sponsored Research Week

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