$4.26 million NIH grant funds UVM study of lung transplant option

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$4.26 million NIH grant funds UVM study of lung transplant option

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 9:55am -- tim

Lung specialists face numerous challenges in conjunction with treating patients with end-stage lung disease, many of whose only hope is lung transplantation, a solution saddled with risks, including a high rate of rejection. Thanks to a late-arriving, $4.26 million Recovery Act grant – part of the limited National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Opportunity for Research funding competition – University of Vermont (UVM) physician-scientist Daniel Weiss, MD, PhD, and colleagues will be able to vigorously examine a novel approach to growing new lungs for patients lacking other treatment options.
Among the diseases most commonly requiring a lung transplant is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) – a deadly combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema – which is currently the fourth leading cause of death, with more than 12 million people diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. In addition, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which affects about 128,000 people in the U.S., and cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease affecting the lungs and digestive system that is diagnosed in about 1,000 people annually, often lead to a need for lung transplantation.
Weiss’s study, which he describes as “science fiction coming to life,” focuses on the idea of using the scaffold – or framework – of lungs from human cadavers to engineer new lungs for patients with end-stage disease. The concept involves stripping the cells out of the cadaveric lungs – called decellularizing – and then replacing or recellularizing the cadaveric lungs with a patient's own stem cells. Stem cells, which are mostly found in the bone marrow, can turn into different types of blood cells, but have also been shown to become tissue cells in a wide variety of organs including the lungs. The process of removing stem cells from one’s own blood or bone marrow is called an autologous transplant. Prior research conducted by Weiss and colleagues has tested this process in an animal model.
Researchers at UVM will be collaborating with investigators at Boston University, University of Connecticut, Tufts University, and Arizona State University to perform this study. The three-year award will support three new positions at UVM, as well as the purchase of new equipment.
“This grant brings out some of the best collaborative opportunities UVM has to offer,” says Weiss, who is an associate professor of medicine at UVM, a pulmonologist at Fletcher Allen and researcher in the Vermont Lung Center.
In addition to Weiss, co-investigators on the study include Gilman Allen, M.D., UVM assistant professor of medicine; Jason Bates, Ph.D., UVM professor of medicine; Albert van der Vliet, professor of pathology; Jeffrey Spees, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and director of the UVM College of Medicine's Stem Cell Core; and former UVM faculty member James Iatridis, Ph.D., who currently serves as professor and director of spine research in the department of orthopaedics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Source: UVM. BURLINGTON, Vt. (Friday, October 8, 2010) –                                                                                           ###