The American Society of Transplantation (AST) Transplantation and Immunology Research Network (TIRN)℠ is designed to identify, fund, and provide ongoing support to the most innovative research in transplantation and immunology.
There are three main categories of research, and TIRN supports all three categories:
Basic science has to do with the molecules and cells that make up our bodies, how diseases develop and attack our immune systems, and how our immune systems fight disease. Basic science takes place in a laboratory setting, and basic scientists try to find out, among other things, what makes a person's body accept or reject a transplanted organ.
Clinical science has to do with patients; organ donors or organ recipients, and either before, during or after a transplant. Clinical science may look at how certain drugs interact with each other in the treatment of a transplant patient, or how other illnesses may affect the success of a transplant. Clinical research is often conducted by physicians, nurses and other medical professionals who keep track of patient data and study the results to find patterns.
Translational science has to do with taking the information the basic scientists find, and figuring out how to translate that into the clinical science setting. An example of translational research would be figuring out how a drug developed in the lab can be developed into a new treatment for patients. This transition is often called moving 'from bench to bedside.'
Not only does research in transplantation and immunology improve the lives of patients facing a transplant, but research in these areas also contribute to the fundamental understandings of immunity to infections like HIV, to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes, and to the blood vessel inflammation that causes heart disease.
What's Happening in Transplantation and Immunology Research Right Now?
To prevent their bodies from rejecting a donated organ, transplant patients must take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. These drugs have evolved and dramatically improved over time, and many of these drugs originally developed for transplantation are now routinely used to treat other immune system diseases including multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, and psoriasis. But the work cannot stop now. A new generation of therapies must be developed so that we continue to minimize the chance that an organ recipient's body rejects that organ.
And the future of transplantation is not only about developing new anti-rejection drugs.
Teams of social scientists, psychologists, physicians, and nurses are working to identify the challenges that interfere with a patient's ability to take their drugs as prescribed. Other researchers are using the latest technologies in studying DNA to create new tests that will let us know sooner if it looks like a person's body might be rejecting a recent transplant. There are even more amazing advances in the area of "transplant tolerance," which looks at teaching the body how to "tolerate" a transplanted organ and accept it as its own. This is an exciting alternative to our current best treatment which focuses on keeping a transplanted organ from being attacked by the recipient's immune system.
Supporting this ongoing research, both in the labs and in the clinics, will make these exciting new approaches possible. Saving patients $5,000/year on medication costs would mean an additional $1.25 billion dollars saved every year. But the positive impact on the health and lives of patients and their families is nearly incalculable.
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