NIAID forms clinical consortium to improve success of organ transplants

September 13, 2004

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today launched a three-site consortium spanning Boston, Cleveland and Philadelphia that will work to improve the outcomes of organ transplantation. Although organ replacement prolongs survival for people suffering from end-stage organ failure, it rarely restores normal life expectancy and can sometimes lead to health problems associated with long-term use of immunosuppressive drugs, which reduce the risk of transplant rejection but also weaken the immune system against disease.

"The percentage of patients who live for a year after an organ transplant has risen dramatically over the past 15 years, but there has been only modest success in improving the odds of long-term survival," says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID. "This research consortium will move us closer to minimizing the debilitating, and sometimes fatal, complications of organ transplantation."

"This consortium is part of our increased commitment to clinical research programs in immunology," says Daniel Rotrosen, M.D., director of NIAID's Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation. "The information generated by this group will not only help us understand how the immune system recognizes and either accepts or rejects transplanted organs, it will also enable us to develop promising approaches to improving graft function and survival."

The consortium will also receive support from two other NIH components, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Funding for the three five-year grants totals an estimated $43 million.

More than 25,000 organ transplants were performed in the United States in 2003, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. As of August 2004, more than 86,000 people have their names on waiting lists for organs such as hearts, lungs, kidneys and intestines.

Obstacles to successful organ replacement include genetic incompatibility between donor and recipient and transplant rejection by the recipient's immune system. Also, patients who take immunosuppressive drugs for a long period of time are more susceptible to conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and loss of kidney function.

The consortium will, among other activities, seek to identify genetic factors in patients that could help doctors predict transplant outcomes as well as responses to post-transplant therapy; develop diagnostic tests that enable early detection and ongoing monitoring of immune-related processes; and test the safety and effectiveness of new, less toxic immunosuppressive drugs.

The three institutions in the consortium and the principal investigator at each are
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mohamed H. Sayegh, M.D.
  • Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, Peter Heeger, M.D.
  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Abraham Shaked, M.D., Ph.D.
    NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

    News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

    NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

    Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

    How the immune system remembers viruses
    For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

    How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
    Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

    Memory training for the immune system
    The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

    Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
    An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

    COVID-19: Immune system derails
    Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

    Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
    Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

    Immune system -- Knocked off balance
    Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

    Too much salt weakens the immune system
    A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

    Parkinson's and the immune system
    Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

    How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
    Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

    Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
  • is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to