Transplant Research and Clinical Trials

Research Team

Researchers within the Division of Transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center are committed to investigating new ways to advance the science of transplantation and ensure better futures for patients in need of transplant or for those who are already living with organ transplants.

The research within the Division of Transplantation falls into several categories: 

  • Inducing tolerance - teaching the body to accept a foreign graft, such as a transplanted organ, without rejection and with limited or no immunosuppression. 
  • Immunosuppression medications and medication management - testing the latest medications or combinations of medications to prevent rejection while reducing the "pill burden" on patients and creating protocols that demonstrate long-term success with fewer side effects.
  • Increasing the number of available donor organs - through tissue regeneration and systematic sourcing of available organs.
  • Advancements in surgical technique - use of new operative tools, materials and techniques, including the single-incision laparoscopic surgery used on living kidney donors. 
  • Using bone marrow-derived stem cells to decrease rejection - could help eliminate need for immunosuppression in all types of organ recipients.
  • Bridge-to-transplant technology - medical devices used to help patients who are in need of transplant but either not at the top of the wait list or without an available donor organ. 

Research in Lung Healing

Clinicians and scientists are invested in improving the outcomes of patients with acute and chronic lung diseases. Research is being conducted through the Lung Healing Program, both in laboratory settings and with UMMC patients who could benefit from the latest in lung disease treatment. 

Collaborators in the Lung Healing Program include cardiothoracic surgeons, critical care doctors, trauma surgeons, nurses within these specialty areas, and researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. 

Learn more about ongoing research within the Lung Healing Program.

Advances in Hepatitis C Treatment

University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is one of the country's premier hospitals treating patients with liver failure. Our doctors and researchers help to discover new medications and treatment options for many liver diseases, including hepatitis C.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is approving new medications that will treat cirrhosis of the liver faster, easier and more effectively in patients with liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis C.

New Hepatitis C Medications Available from UMMC Physicians

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Previously, drugs for hepatitis C were protease inhibitors, which means they attacked a certain part of the hepatitis C virus. In late 2013, a new category of medicines came out, called polymerase inhibitors. These medications attack a different part of the hepatitis C virus. 

Polymerase inhibitors are more effective than any other drug so far. Patients experience high cure rates, even when they have cirrhosis of the liver, which has been difficult to treat. We offer these new medications to all patients who have hepatitis C.

This new category of drugs is safe and has limited side effects. They also:

  • Do not interact with other drugs as previous medications have
  • Have higher cure rates than in the past
  • Do not cause rashes, anemia, itching or burning anal pain
  • Cause less fatigue than previous medicines for hepatitis C 

Tissue Engineering

Recellularization: The Future of Liver Transplantation

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Patients with heart failure have heart pumps and ventricular assist devices (VADs) that allow their hearts to keep beating. Patients with kidney failure have dialysis to clean the toxins from their blood. Diabetics have insulin to correct the under performance of their pancreas. But there are no options other than transplantation for patients with liver failure, and unfortunately more people are in of need of liver transplants than there are donor organs available.

Dr. John LaMattina, assistant professor and director of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s living donor liver transplant program, is committed to finding new options for patients with end-stage liver disease. His first step was to work with colleagues in the Division of Transplantation to establish the largest adult living donor liver transplant program in the state of Maryland, which enables close friends or relatives to donate part of their liver to their sick loved one after thorough a examination and extensive physical evaluation. This living donor surgery is designed to help transplant patients earlier in their liver failure so that they recover more quickly and do not become sicker while awaiting a deceased donor organ.

In addition to his clinical solutions for maximizing available livers, Dr. LaMattina fosters a passion for basic science research, which culminated during his training years in a fellowship in the Transplant Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where he studied transplant immunology and tolerance of transplanted tissue.

Now with a lab of his own, Dr. LaMattina uses a pre-clinical model to investigate the possibility of stripping native cells from donor livers, leaving only the translucent scaffolding of the liver, and recellularizing them with stem cells from a needy recipient. If perfected, this procedure could eliminate deaths caused by the shortage of livers available for transplantation. The science is complex, but the concept is fairly simple, like gutting the inside of a home and rebuilding the floor plan.

Imagine if patients could become both their own donor and recipient. It would look something like this: patient donates his/her own healthy stem cells. Physician scientists inject stem cells into an empty liver scaffold where cells multiply over a few weeks until they have filled the scaffold and regenerated a full liver. Surgeons would transplant that newly recellularized liver into the donor-recipient.

The risk of rejection would be much lower since the cells came from the recipient’s own body. And the wait time to transplant would be weeks instead of months, requiring just a few weeks to harvest stem cells and recellularize a liver scaffold.

Research is in the early stages, but Dr. LaMattina believes he will see significant advancements in the next five to 10 years with increased funding and research support.

Clinical Trials

Actively Funded DOD Grants

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Adult Tissue-Derived Stem Cells and Tolerance Induction in Nonhuman Primates for Vascularized Composite Allograft Transplantation
Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP)

Vascularized Bone Marrow Regulates Alloresponses to Vascularized Composite Allografts
Dept. of Defense – AFIRM II

Upregulation of bone marrow compartment mediated immunomodulation for vascularized composite allografts

Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs
Restorative Transplantation Research Cooperative Agreement