Research

It’s a short distance from bench to bedside at the University of Michigan as our investigators make discoveries that translate directly to health and quality improvements for our patients. With a culture of multidisciplinary collaboration, our transplantation scientists are nationally recognized for their contributions and creative breakthroughs.

Transplant Surgery research spans basic, translational, and health services — and with the support of some $7.7 million in annual grant funding, we have the resources to make investigation a strong focus for the section.

Faculty research interests include:

Health Services

Quality collaborative: Led by U-M transplant surgeon Darrell A. Campbell, Jr., MD, the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative focuses on real-world improvements in surgical outcomes. By sharing information across more than 70 hospitals, we can identify top performers and then coach other institutions on how to improve, based on a data-driven approach. The results: A 70% reduction in surgical site infections following colon surgery in Michigan over the past 5 years, compared to only a 15% reduction rate nationwide.

Clinical programs: Our program to improve patients’ health before they undergo surgery has been recognized as an innovative model and is now used in more than 20 hospitals across the state. More than 2,000 patients have completed the Michigan Surgical and Health Optimization Program (MSHOP), resulting in a 30% reduction in cost of care and length of patient stays. We’re also collaborating with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services through the Michigan Opioid Prescribing and Engaging Network (MOPEN) to reduce opioid abuse and overdose through better prescribing, patient education, and community outreach.

Policy development: Section faculty help develop and refine national policy on transplantation, with section chief Dr. John C. Magee, MD, serving as co-investigator with the Scientific Registry of Transplantation Recipients (SRTR) for 7 years.

Basic & Translational Science

The Transplantation Biology Program, founded by Drs. Marilia Cascalho and Jeffrey Platt, makes the concept of “bench to bedside” a reality at Michigan. Members of the program, including faculty from departments of Surgery, Medicine, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, use knowledge and insights from diverse fields to fuel novel lines of research aimed at understanding and solving the most vexing challenges in transplantation. The challenges addressed include the shortage of organs available for transplantation, the propensity of transplanted organs to undergo deterioration over time, and the complications caused by life-long treatment with immunosuppressive drugs. U-M transplantation scientists were the first to pursue novel methods of genetic engineering as a strategy for replacing organs and are using those strategies today to generate new sources of tissues and cells, potentially derived from the person needing treatment. U-M transplantation scientists discovered that organ transplants are not merely passive targets of the recipient’s immune system but rather change in ways that can help alleviate the problem of rejection but also can cause unwanted problem. U-M transplantation scientists have also devised new ways to look at the immune cells that recognize and potentially destroy a transplant, hopefully a a spring board to developing novel ways of specifically controlling those cells without broadly compromising immune control of infections.

Our research focuses on:

  • How antibodies attack and destroy transplants.
  • How transplants resist and repair immune-mediated injury.
  • How genes and proteins govern the development of immunity to transplants and infectious organisms.
  • How stem cells, xenotransplantation and organogenesis might replace or augment the function of failing organs.

Multidisciplinary Collaborations

Cross-departmental, multi-center and statewide collaborations extend the reach of our research impact. At the University of Michigan, projects include a study with the School of Public Health to examine attitudes on organ donation in minority communities, as well as a partnership with the College of Engineering to develop new approaches to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Section faculty have also participated in multi-center immunosuppression trials.