Transplant Faculty Member Awarded 2023 UW Fall Research Competition Grant

David Al-Adra, MD, PhD, a surgeon-scientist and Assistant Professor in the Division of Transplantation, was recently awarded a one-year, $65,000 grant from UW’s 2023 Fall Research Competition, which is administered by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Al-Adra’s lab focuses on methods of decreasing organ rejection in patients who have received a liver transplant.

“Transplant recipients have to take anti-rejection drugs that suppress their immune system but these drugs can have significant side effects, such as increased risks for infection and cancer formation – and even with these drugs rejection of the transplanted organ remains a significant issue,” said Al-Adra. “We’re looking for ways to reduce the need for these life-long medications in transplant patients.”

Al-Adra and his team are focusing on extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are tiny particles generated by the donor liver that interact with the recipient’s immune system after the organ has been transplanted. They believe that modifying EVs before the organ has been transplanted could decrease the immune system’s response to the organ post-transplant, which would decrease the risk of rejection and improve patient outcomes. However, it is difficult to identify EVs due to their small size. With their Fall Research Competition funding, Al-Adra’s lab aims to both identify EVs in the donor liver and change them in a way that prevents the organ recipient’s immune system from attacking the liver after it has been transplanted.

According to Al-Adra, “This study will give us a much better understanding of the immunological properties of EVs that are produced by the liver and help us develop strategies to leverage these properties in a way that will not only decrease organ rejection but also decrease the need for harmful anti-rejection drugs.”