Research

The Transplant Center includes transplant services and research at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. In clinical and basic research, researchers strive to improve surgical procedures, develop new anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressive medications), improve outcomes and care for people who need transplants. Research also focuses on finding alternative therapies for people who may not need a transplant.

See Mayo Clinic's transplant clinical trials

Mayo Clinic researchers are working to improve several areas of transplant, including:

  • Heart transplant. Researchers study new surgical procedures, outcomes after transplants and other areas of heart transplant. Read more.
  • Lung Transplant. Scientists conduct research to address challenges associated with lung transplantation and includes the Lung Restoration Program in Florida, which is a joint effort with United Therapeutics. Read more.
  • Liver transplant. Researchers study how to improve outcomes and care for people who need a liver transplant. Researchers also study hepatitis B and C, immunosuppressive medications, bioartificial liver technology, and other areas. Read more.
  • Kidney and pancreas transplant. Researchers study living-donor kidney transplants, kidney transplants between incompatible blood types (ABO incompatible kidney transplants), kidney transplants for recipients whose protein substances (antibodies) react against their donors' cells (positive crossmatch kidney transplants), and immunosuppressive medications. In addition, Mayo transplant researchers study what happens to kidneys years after transplant to try to determine why some kidneys fail and others last longer. Mayo Clinic staff has developed innovations to increase the viability of deceased-donor organs to increase transplant rate for people waiting for kidney transplantation. Read more.
  • Blood and marrow transplant. In blood and marrow transplant, researchers study how to improve your immune system's function, how to improve outcomes, and how to reduce recurrence of your condition after a blood and marrow transplant. Read more.
  • Transplant immunology. Researchers work toward a better understanding of the complex processes of chronic immune-mediated injury to pave the way to novel clinical approaches for better patient outcomes. Read more.
  • Face transplant. A multidisciplinary team of experts are developing techniques to improve face transplant surgery and its long-term outcomes. Read more.
  • Hand transplant. A multidisciplinary team of physicians and scientists are developing treatment options that will provide the most benefit for patients requiring hand transplantation. Read more.

Bioartificial liver

Some people who need organs have high levels of antibodies, such as from blood transfusions. In these highly sensitized individuals, being matched to an organ from a deceased donor or finding a living donor may be almost impossible. Mayo Clinic researchers are working to develop a bioartificial liver that allows people with liver disease to receive the improved liver function that comes with liver transplant without undergoing the procedure.

In this approach, live cells from pig livers filter the patient's blood in a process similar to that of kidney dialysis. This bioartificial liver offers several advantages:

  • The live cells perform all the metabolic functions that a human liver does, besides filtering wastes from the body.
  • Patients can avoid the risks of surgery and minimize disruption to their lives.
  • The donor liver that the artificial liver recipient would have received is available for another person needing an organ.

Several other steps are involved, as well, to increase the safety and likelihood of success. The drug eculizumab (Soliris) is taken to prevent organ damage caused by antibody attacks on the new organ. Multiple rounds of plasma exchange filter out antibodies. Mayo Clinic was one of the first centers to use eculizumab.

If the individual needs to have more than one organ transplanted, as in heart-liver and kidney-liver transplantation, Mayo Clinic doctors plan the sequence of the procedures to reduce antibody production. Transplanting the liver first, when possible, may reduce the chance of rejection of the other organ.

In addition, Mayo doctors carefully individualize organ recipients' care plans to reduce the likelihood of organ rejection. With planning, the likelihood of rejection has been reduced from 40% to less than 10%.

Publications

See a list of publications about transplant by Mayo Clinic doctors on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Read more about transplant laboratories and programs:

Research Profiles

March 23, 2021