Transplant Immunobiology Research

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. 

Surgical Outcomes Research and Innovation Nucleus (SORIN)

The Surgical Outcomes Research and Innovation Nucleus (SORIN) was formalized in 2019 and serves to foster the development, testing and implementation of innovative therapeutic and health services interventions aimed at improving outcomes in patients undergoing surgery at MUSC.

SORIN has a diverse and active portfolio of clinical research endeavors, including nearly 50 ongoing clinical trials across all surgical disciplines housed within the Department of Surgery. We actively follow nearly 600 patients enrolled in our trials. We are currently testing new drug therapies, devices and cellular-based interventions designed to improve and extend the lives of South Carolinians seeking surgical care within our institution.

Transplant Clinical Research Core (TCRC)

The main function of the TCRC is to facilitate the benchtop-to-bedside concept within organ transplantation by streamlining the process of innovative therapies moving from the laboratory to clinical trials and use within usual care. The TCRC is led by David J. Taber, Pharm.D., BCPS, whose current research endeavors surround the study of optimizing medication utilization in transplantation and studying mechanisms to improve the peri-operative value of care in transplant surgery.

Improving Surgical Outcomes Through Disparities Research

Investigators within the Department of Surgery are nationally recognized in studying the causes and consequences of healthcare disparities in vulnerable patient populations, most notably African Americans.

Our researchers are conducting pioneering interventional studies with the goal of reducing the impact of race and socioeconomic status on health outcomes.

Within our clinical trials, we have a strong track record of enrolling patients that are underrepresented in research. Often these patient populations are missing in clinical trials, and inclusion is of paramount importance to providing best clinical outcomes to all populations. We strive to include a highly diverse patient population in all of our clinical trials in transplantation. Many of our other clinical trials, including oncology, cardiac surgery, and acute care surgery clinical trials, have similarly diverse populations.

Research Scientists

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) 

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

South Carolina Investigators in Transplantation: The South Carolina Investigators in Transplantation (SCIT) is comprised of a group of basic science and translational investigators whose laboratories have a specific focus in transplant immunology. 

MUSC Pediatric Transplant Program: The MUSC Health Transplant Center offers the most advanced pediatric transplant resources, facilities, and physicians skilled in the latest techniques, all focused on saving and improving the quality of young lives.