Research Centers

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Experimental Organ Transplantation Laboratory

The Experimental Organ Transplantation Laboratory in the Massachusetts General Hospital Transplantation Biology Research Center focuses on developing tolerance-inducing strategies utilizing a preclinical model of pig-to-baboon xenotransplantation.

The severe organ shortage has forced the transplant community to seek avenues for expansion of the donor population. Xenotransplantation utilizing pig organs may offer the optimal choice for addressing this shortage if long-term graft survival can be obtained. Increased immunological barriers exist in xenotransplantation, especially when compared to allotransplantation, where an individual receives transplantation from another individual. These barriers have led to investigations into achieving xenogeneic immunological tolerance as a means of allowing for long-term graft acceptance.

The Experimental Organ Transplantation Laboratory in the Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC) at Massachusetts General Hospital focuses on the ability to precondition a liver xenograft by:

  • Eliminating donor-derived cells, and/or
  • Reconstituting the donor liver with recipient-specific progenitor cells capable of differentiation into recipient-specific hepatocytes, which may facilitate subsequent graft acceptance

Reconstitution is performed by injecting bone marrow from the recipient into the donor swine prior to transplantation. By creating a pre-transplant chimeric xenograft, the transplanted organ may be better conditioned to be accepted by the recipient swine’s body.

Principal Investigator
Parsia A. Vagefi, MD
Senior Investigator/Head, Experimental Organ Transplantation Laboratory, TBRC
Assistant in Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
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Research Fellow
Nalu Navarro-Alvarez, MD, PhD
Jigesh Shah, DO

Utilizing a clinically relevant large animal model of pig-to-baboon liver xenotransplantation, the Experimental Organ Transplantation Laboratory is investigating:

  • Whether a chimeric xenograft can be created in the pig donor by intraportal bone marrow transplantation (BMT) from a baboon, and whether the immunoprivileged fetal state in the pig facilitates the creation of a chimeric xenograft
  • The degree of chimerism and/or graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in pig donors following intraportal BMT from a baboon, and the effect of hepatic irradiation on engraftment
  • Whether a xenogeneic chimeric pig liver graft demonstrates enhanced survival in recipient baboons

Undergraduates, medical students and post-doctoral fellows interested in joining the Experimental Organ Transplantation Laboratory should contact Parsia A. Vagefi, MD.