OHSU Transplant Team Receives $210,000 in Research Funds

07/10/00    Portland, Ore.

OHSU Awarded International Grant.

An Oregon Health Sciences University transplant team is one of five in the United States to receive part of a $1 million grant from the Roche Organ Transplantation Research Foundation to improve the outcome of organ transplantation. Susan L. Orloff, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, and molecular microbiology and immunology in the School of Medicine at OHSU, leads the team. She was awarded $210,000 for a three-year project studying the role of cytomegalovirus-encoded chemokine receptors in the acceleration of transplant vascular sclerosis. The grant was one of nine awarded internationally.

Orloff's study examines the acceleration of the vascular lesion called transplant vascular sclerosis or TVS, which is the hallmark lesion of chronic organ rejection. During a transplant procedure an organ recipient's immune system is suppressed so that his/her body is less likely to reject the organ. During this time, an organ recipient is vulnerable to a type of herpes virus called cytomegalovirus or CMV. This virus is dormant in 70 percent to 90 percent of the population and can be activated when the immune system is suppressed. When the virus is activated, it increases the acceleration of TVS.

The virus expresses a chemokine receptor, which is similar to cellular chemokine receptors. Interaction between the virally encoded chemokine receptor and various chemokines has recently been shown to cause smooth muscle cells to migrate from the outside of blood vessels to the inside. These smooth muscle cells are the predominant cell type in the vascular lesion TVS. As the cells build up on the inside of the blood vessel, blood flow is dimished. The decrease in blood flow is what leads to graft failure. Orloff's team will study the CMV-encoded chemokine receptors involved in the acceleration of the vascular lesion that directly affects the rate of chronic rejection.

Orloff has extensive experience in the transplantation field and is very excited about the grant. "I feel very fortunate. I look forward to making a major contribution," she said. Orloff's letter of intent was chosen out of 61 international applicants.

The ROTRF is a nonprofit, independent and autonomous, registered medical charity dedicated to advancing organ transplantation by supporting research with operating grants.

Grant recipients must be established members of academic staff at universities, transplant centers or research institutes. Recipients' research findings are published in the ROTRF's annual report.

The ROTRF's areas for funding include research in long-term survival of transplanted organs, prevention of chronic transplant organ dysfunction, development of new agents for use in transplantation and induction of tolerance, among other areas.