Transplant Immunobiology Research

Dr Zhai and his team
Members of the TIBL Lab with Yuan Zhai, M.D., Ph.D. (center)

Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory

The Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Laboratory (TIBL), under the direction of Yuan Zhai, M.D., Ph.D., provides a collaborative platform for experimental and translational research in organ transplantation. Dr. Zhai, a nationally-renowned basic science researcher, joins forces with Drs. Joseph Scalea and Dirk van der Windt, who are not only experts themselves in the research of transplant tolerance but also practicing transplant surgeons.

The lab's vision is to establish a collaborative working model to bring together the expertise and effort of basic scientists and clinicians to facilitate the identification and resolution of fundamental questions in the field in a more clinically relevant way. The over-arching goal of the Lee Patterson Allen TIBL is to advance our scientific understanding of basic questions on graft injury/rejection/tolerance; to discover, test, and implement novel and clinically relevant immunologic solutions to life-critical problems through innovative translational research.

Transplantation is the gold standard of care in patients with end-stage organ diseases. The most challenging issue currently is the severe donor organ shortage. According to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) data today, 105,879 patients are in need of an organ transplant. But only 20,663 of them have received one. Despite the substantial donor-recipient discrepancy, 18% of donor organs are discarded due to their non-ideal conditions. Ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) is an inevitable event in organ procurement, preservation, and transplantation. It is the limiting factor in donor organ pool expansion, as “non-ideal” or sub-optimal organs are highly susceptible to IRI, leading to early graft dysfunction and rejection post-transplantation. No specific therapeutic strategies are currently available in clinical practice. Thus, a better scientific understanding of IRI is urgent and essential in our endeavor to improve graft qualities and increase organ transplantation. Dr. Zhai’s laboratory has been studying IRI for over 20 years and is the leading research group in the discovery of novel immunological mechanisms in liver IRI in animal models.

One common theme in the lab is immune biology and therapeutic application of myeloid cells, which are first responder innate immune cells against transplanted organs. Importantly, their enrichment in the graft and in vitro accessibility for manipulation makes them ideal targets for cell therapies. Experiments will explore their roles in tissue inflammation, repair, and regulation of allograft rejection/tolerance. These are exciting times in transplant immunobiology at MUSC.   

The Patterson Barclay Memorial Foundation was instrumental in the development of the Lee Patterson Allen TIBL. 

Transplant Researchers

Yuan Zhai, M.D., Ph.D. leads the MUSC Transplant Research team within the Lee Patterson Allen Transplant Immunobiology Lab. In his research endeavors, he collaborates with clinicians to test novel molecules and pathways derived from animal studies as markers of tissue injury and inflammation, with the goal to translate research into clinical application.Research on PubMed

Joseph Scalea, M.D. is vice chair of Innovation in the MUSC Department of Surgery and Executive Medical Director for MUSC Health Solutions. Dr. Scalea's research interests focus on improving outcomes and access to care for patients needing life-saving transplantation and researching strategies to achieve immune tolerance in allogeneic solid organ transplantation. Research on PubmMed

Dirk van der Windt, M.D., Ph.D. is a transplant surgeon and transplant immunologist whose research focuses on ex-vivo therapy of the liver during normothermic machine perfusion in order to improve organ quality even prior to transplantation in the recipient.  He recently received the American Society of Transplant Surgeons Natera cfDNA Faculty Research Grant to further explore the role of cfDNA in ischemia-reperfusion injury.

David J. Taber, Pharm.D., BCPS: Dr. Taber's research focuses on optimizing transplant medication safety through Pharmacist-led mHealth based intervention. He is the PI of a $1,492,135 R18 study with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and is the PI on a $3.1M NIH/NIDDK study that aims to demonstrate an effective and efficient approach to improve long-term outcomes in African American kidney recipients while reducing health disparities.

John McGillicuddy, M.D.: Dr. McGillicuddy's research focuses on research to increase kidney transplant recipient graft survival. Dr.McGillicuddy is the PI of a $1.11 million National Institutes of Health grant to examine a novel use of mobile health technology to reduce kidney transplant recipient premature graft loss. Research on PubMed