Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Comprehensive Transplant Center

Mark Pescovitz, MD, Memorial Pilot Grant Program

In August 2012, the Comprehensive Transplant Center awarded four Pilot Grant Awards in memory of Mark Pescovitz, MD.

About Mark Pescovitz, MD

Dr. Mark Pescovitz was an alumnus of the medical school and a truly inspiring individual. At the time of his death in December 2010, he was a professor of Microbiology/Immunology and director of the Transplant Immunology Laboratory at Indiana University School of Medicine. A transplant surgeon, medical researcher, artist, philanthropist, father, and husband, his legacy is one of intellectual curiosity, innovation, and extraordinary service to society.

This award recognizes such spirit in fellow scientists, and encourages their future work.

Award Recipients

Guillermo Ameer, ScD

Novel Injectable Polyelectrolyte Nanogels for Cell Transplantation Therapy

Guillermo Ameer, ScD
Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery
Resident Faculty Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine
Chemistry of Life Processes Institute

Cell transplantation is a promising tool that could potentially have an impact in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications. In particular, the ability to deliver cells and bioactive proteins in a minimally invasive manner makes this strategy attractive to clinicians. Several pre-clinical and clinical trials have demonstrated the potential of this approach to have an impact on patient outcome in various areas including tissue revascularization, diabetes, wound healing, and gene therapy. This project investigates the use of a novel thermoresponsive hydrogel as a carrier for endothelial cells (ECs) and a protein known to promote stem cell homing to sites of injury (SDF-1). The simultaneous delivery of ECs and SDF-1 is expected to significantly improve the arterial response to injury. This effect will be investigated in a rat aorta graft interposition model that will be developed in collaboration with the microsurgery core facility.

Current Progress

Olga Frankfurt, MD

Double Cord Blood Chimerism Assessment

Olga Frankfurt, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology)
Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center

Double cord blood transplantation (DCBT) had successfully circumvented the problem of a limited cell dose in a cord blood graft and has become a standard of care approach in the United States for adult patients. Despite significant reduction in graft failure with DCBT compared to that of a single unit, a delayed engraftment and primary engraftment failure do occur. Patients who fail to engraft or develop life-threatening infectious complications due to profound and prolong neutropenia may be salvaged by the infusion of additional stem cells. Ability to early, confidently and accurately predict engraftment would be an invaluable tool, allowing to adequately prepare for the additional unit re-infusion in appropriate time frame. Technical limitations of the currently available semi-quantitative PCR assays of informative polymorphic STRs, typically do not allow for chimerism (the most significant predictor of engraftment) assessment prior to day 21 after the stem cell transplantation. This project intends to utilize a novel technology - the qPCR engraftment monitoring assay that uses 34 oligonucleotide probe sets that allows for monitoring of amplification of the target sequence in real time – to determine if engraftment could be predicted earlier than day 21. Additionally, this technology may allow for the detail understanding of engraftment kinetics of both cords, shedding some light on their interactions and providing better insight into the factors that determined successful engraftment. This project is being conducted in close collaboration with the Histocompatibility and Chimerism Core Laboratory.

Current Progress

Saeed Mohammad, MD, MS

Cost Effectiveness of Immunosuppression Reduction in Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients

Saeed Mohammad, MD, MS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Attending Physician, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Ann & Robert Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago

Liver transplantation is life saving therapy for children with end stage liver disease. Immunosuppression reduction and withdrawal has the potential to reduce costs and comorbidities however there is the risk of graft rejection. The aim of our project was to assess the cost effectiveness of immunosuppression reduction in pediatric liver transplant recipients. In order to perform a cost effectiveness analysis, data on health utilities were needed for our population. Ideally health utilities are obtained directly by the standard gamble or time trade off technique, however this is time consuming. Health utility surveys may also be used to obtain these indirectly. Data on costs would be obtained through the cost accounting system at our institution.

Current Progress

Ramille Shah, PhD

Elucidating Optimal 3D Bioplotted Scaffold Parameters for Enhancing the Viability, Growth, and Function of Mature and IPS Cell-Derived Hepatocytes

Ramille Shah, PhD
Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Surgery
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and IBNAM

This project aims to begin to understand how a 3D synthetic microenvironment fabricated via 3D bioplotting can affect the growth and function of mature or stem-cell derived hepatocytes. The work over this past year primarily focused on evaluating different material systems as well as stem cell sources (mesenchymal or induced pluripotent stem cells) for liver tissue engineering. One of our goals was to evaluate different material systems to be able to use in further investigations to study how the scaffold architecture (i.e. pore size, shape, and porosity) can influence cell behavior.

Current Progress