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The Making of Medicine

Lung Discovery Could Improve Transplant Success

A new discovery by our Swapnil K. Sonkusare, PhD, and his team could improve the success of lung transplants and help recipients live longer, healthier lives.

Professor Sonkusare and his colleagues have identified a major biological contributor to ischemia-reperfusion injury -- damage caused when a transplanted lung or other organ is reconnected to a blood supply. This damage is a major cause of organ rejection and death after transplant.

The researchers identified a whole cascade of cellular changes that take place when blood flow is restored to a lung. These processes occurred in endothelial cells that line blood vessels in the lung and resulted in immune cell activation that led to lung injury.

Doctors eventually maybe able to leverage this new understanding to prevent ischemia-reperfusion injury, Professor Sonkusare says.

“Our collaborative research with [UVA's Dr. Victor] Laubach has revealed the cellular mechanisms for lung ischemia-reperfusion injury,” Sonkusare said. “We are currently testing the effectiveness of drug molecules that block these mechanisms in various models of lung injury after transplantation, with the ultimate goal of improving the success rate of lung transplantation.”

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