2014 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Our Research

Transplant researcher William Burlingham (right) with chief of transplantation Dixon KaufmanClinicians and scientists at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics have a long history and deep commitment to research that advances the field of transplantation. Since its creation in 1966, the program has made innovative discoveries that are used throughout the world.


Currently, a team led by Dr. Dixon Kaufman, chief of transplantation, and Dr. William Burlingham, professor of surgery in transplant research and development, are researching new therapies to reduce or eliminate the long-term need for immunosuppression (anti-rejection) drugs in kidney transplant recipients.


This research focuses on the bidirectional regulation of T-cells between living donors and recipients.


"We are seeking not only a good genetic match between donor and recipient," said Dr. Burlingham, "but also a good bidirectional regulation 'fit' where the T-cells are beneficial to the graft. When a recipient has a favorable response to the donor's T-cells, we have a better chance of decreasing or eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs."


Dr. Burlingham's work focuses on using the correct methodology to identify good donor and recipient pairs beyond the genetic match. Clinical trials precondition the recipient with T-cells from the donor that will help regulate the recipient's immune system to allow for a more favorable response.


"We increase our chances of success by choosing the right 'fit' of pairs," said Dr. Kaufman. "The new process will ultimately be safer, and will improve the quality-of-life for transplant patients by decreasing their need for medications and the costs and side effects associated with them."


As the research evolves, UW Health scientists hope to apply their findings to deceased donor transplant and pediatric cases. Other research within the department includes work to enhance the function of organs recovered from deceased donors, and research to develop new therapies for treating diabetes.