The Center for Transplantation Sciences (CTS) at Massachusetts General Hospital conducts critical research to increase the success rates of transplantation and meet the growing demand for organ and bone marrow transplantation.

In the United States alone, thousands of people are placed on waiting lists each year in hopes of receiving an organ, tissue or cell transplant. Life-saving organ transplants are the only solution for tens of thousands suffering from end-stage heart, kidney, liver and lung disease. Likewise, cellular transplantation using bone marrow has become the sole means of curing a number of hematologic malignancies and other blood-related diseases, while pancreatic islets are showing encouraging results in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Finally, vascular tissue allografts such as hand and face transplants have eased the suffering of burn patients and injured soldiers.

However, 20 patients die every day in the U.S. awaiting an organ transplant, while scores of transplanted patients die yearly because of chronic rejection and the side effects of chronic immunosuppression. Better understanding of transplantation biology is critical to developing new ways to prevent rejection, to eliminating the need for chronic immunosuppression and to finding alternative sources of organs, tissues and cells for the thousands of patients who die each year waiting for a transplant.

Our Mission

Drs. Madsen, Markmann and Pierson (from left to right)
Under the leadership of Joren Madsen, MD, Dphil, James Markmann, MD, PhD, and Richard Pierson, MD, (from left to right), the CTS enables scientific synergy within the Mass General transplant research community, helping scientists to make scientific and clinical breakthroughs.

The mission of the CTS at Mass General is to improve the number and the lives of recipients with organ, tissue and cell transplants by:

  • Better understanding the mechanisms underlying the immune response
  • Developing novel means of inducing immune tolerance
  • Finding creative ways of increasing the supply of donor organs

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Research

The CTS is a multidisciplinary research center working at the interface between basic science and clinical applications in transplantation immunology and related fields. It was established in 2015 by merging the Transplantation Unit Surgery Research Laboratory (TUSRL) and the Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC).

The Team

The TUSRL was originally established by Paul S. Russell, MD, in 1962 and made many early contributions to the field. A. Benedict Cosimi, MD, took over the laboratory in 1990, focusing on nonhuman primate studies. In 2007, the leadership transitioned to Dr. Markmann who broadened the scope of work to include pancreatic islet transplantation.

The TBRC was established in 1991 by Dr. Sachs. Under Dr. Sachs, the TBRC became world renowned for molecular research in basic immunology and for large animal translational studies of organ and islet allo- and xeno- transplantation. In 2013, leadership of the TBRC transitioned to Dr. Madsen who recruited Laurence A. Turka, MD, as the center’s co-director with Dr. Sachs serving as scientific director. In 2018, Dr. Turka moved to industry but maintains an appointment at Mass General.

Our mission is to improve the number and the lives of recipients with organ, tissue and cell transplants.

Under the combined leadership of Dr. Madsen, Dr. Markmann and Dr. Pierson, the CTS enables an unprecedented degree of scientific synergy within the Mass General transplant research community and provides a fertile environment for scientists to make the next scientific and clinical breakthroughs that will drive the field forward.

The CTS has a faculty and staff of approximately 80 people, comprising 16 scientific groups.

The Immune Tolerance Network

In addition to the research performed within the CTS laboratories, Mass General is one of the three major institutional partners supporting research performed under the auspices of the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN). The ITN is a cooperative agreement funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) which funds phase I and phase II trials of immune tolerance in solid organ transplantation, autoimmunity and allergy along with accompanied in depth mechanistic studies. Several landmark ITN studies have been led by Mass General investigators.

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Core Facility Available to Researchers

The CTS makes its Pancreatic Islet Isolation Laboratory available to all members of the research community. The Pancreatic Islet Isolation Laboratory provides cost-effective resources for islet isolation and islet transplant models.

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