UAB established the Comprehensive Transplant Institute (CTI) in 2011 to build on almost 5 decades of excellence in kidney transplantation by further strengthening programs in heart, lung, liver, and pancreas transplantation. UAB has performed almost 9000 kidney transplants since 1968 (ranking second in the nation) and has helped develop or evaluate almost all transplant drug regimens currently in use.
Transplant nephrologist Robert Gaston, MD, and transplant surgeon Devin Eckhoff, MD, are the institute’s codirectors. Gaston, immediate past president of the American Society of Transplantation (AST), says its goals are to increase options for patients, expand the future of transplantation through translational research and clinical trials, and ensure that staffing, fellowship programs, and faculty commitment to translational research continue strong.
“The synergies available with this institute have energized our transplant community,” says Gaston. “Collaboration with the UAB immunologists has produced three pilot grant awards; we launched a new transplant data system to serve as a strong tool for patient care and a vast repository for research and opened a large new Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Clinic to increase efficiency and reduce waiting times.”
He also noted the implementation of the Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation-10 Study, which examines the use of belatacept as a means to avoid calcineurin inhibitors and steroids, with mechanistic studies to occur in the laboratories of transplant nephrologist Roslyn Mannon, MD, current AST president. In addition, the CTI hosted its first symposium, “The Role of Innate Immunity in Solid Organ Transplantation,” with expert speakers from UAB, Oxford University, Harvard University, and Cleveland Clinic. The 2013 symposium is set for March at UAB and will be jointly hosted by Emory University.
The institute, says Gaston, provides a means to expand patient options, including incompatible transplantation and kidney-paired donation and new access to transplants for patients with HIV or hepatitis C infection. “We are ensuring the successful future of the program by recruiting research-based and clinical faculty to develop and continue initiatives in maintaining long-term allograft function, preventing damage to transplanted organs in the recovery and preservation phases, and developing approaches to prevent rejection with the side effects we currently see.”
Faculty recruitment includes abdominal and thoracic transplant surgeons, transplant nephrologists and hepatologists, a heart-failure specialist, and a new medical director for lung transplantation, among others.
For a virtual tour of the kidney transplant clinic, visit: www.uabmedicine.org/kidneytransplant