Conquering Transplant Challenges by Unique Means: The Development and Use of Bioartificial Organs
Given the spirit of collaboration and the many multidisciplinary pursuits that characterize the CTC, Jason Wertheim, MD, PhD, a Northwestern transplant surgeon with a background in bioengineering and immunology, has found the ideal environment in which to conduct his investigations in the area of bioengineering tissues and organs. Just as generous contributions have helped to accelerate the innovative research of Drs. Miller and Leventhal in the realm of immune monitoring andimmune tolerance, so, too, will philanthropic funds accelerate Dr. Wertheim’s endeavors.
Recognizing that organ shortage is a serious challenge in the field of transplantation, Dr. Wertheim seeks to develop a strategy that will enable transplant surgeons to overcome this limitation. Therefore, Dr. Wertheim and the members of his laboratory are hoping to build bioartificial tissues and organs in the laboratory, with the end goal of creating an unlimited supply of organs that will be available for use when a transplant recipients’ organs fail.
Dr. Wertheim notes, “We are using technology and tissue engineering to solve the organ shortage crisis.”
Highlights of Dr. Wertheim’s dynamic work include the following:
Dr. Wertheim and his research are attempting to determine whether it is possible to repopulate a deceased-donor organ not suitable for transplant with new cells (either derived from the recipient or immunologically matched to him or her), in order to create a suitable organ for transplant.
In Dr. Wertheim’s words, “The process of developing a bioartificial organ is like renovating a house. You can completely gut it, removing the walls and flooring. But you leave the support beams.”
Dr. Wertheim’s research is possible only at Northwestern, with its unique combination of experts in transplantation and stem cell behavior, immunology, chemistry, and engineering. Moreover, work of this nature offers perhaps the greatest promise for creating fully functional organs and tissues in the laboratory.