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Susan Moffatt-Bruce, MD

Award Name KL2


T-cells and innate immunity in cardiac transplant rejection

The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science has awarded Susan Moffatt-Bruce, M.D., Ph.D. with a KL2 Scholar Award for her research study involving the role of T-cells, and in particular T-regulatory cells, and their interaction with macrophages in acute cardiac rejection in mice.

“Heart transplantation is a fairly standardized procedure, but patients eventually reject their heart transplant and we’re trying to figure out how to change that,” said Moffatt-Bruce.

Preventing a transplant patient’s immune system from attacking the donor heart requires doctors to suppress the immune system with drugs in order to slow rejection.

The mean duration of a heart transplant is about 11 years; however, patients can sustain about 1 to 2 rejection episodes, when the immune system begins to reject the donor heart, per year. “These acute rejection episodes set [patients] up for eventual dysfunction or loss of the transplant,” said Moffatt-Bruce.

“The problem is that you’re giving a person a heart that is not genetically similar at all. The drugs try to keep the rejection at bay but they all have side effects such as kidney dysfunction and infections.”

Moffatt-Bruce’s study allows mice to reject heart transplants and later examines the macrophages in the heart graft relative to the T cells. Her research team transplants the heart from one type of mouse to another, into the abdomen, and then looks at the grafts themselves to see how the macrophages are moving relative to the T cells.

“Most people just look at one or the other rather than the interaction between the two,” said Moffatt-Bruce. “Macrophages are the body’s ‘professional garbage eaters’ and the first line of defense of any sort for the body, scavenging any sort of abnormal tissue that may be present.”

T-cells, a type of white blood cell, are thought to be responsible for aggressive immune responses. They cause the rejection of heart transplants.

“Most researchers see the macrophages and the T-cells as being on ‘two sides of the fence.’ Though they are usually not thought to interact, my theory is that they do,” said Moffatt-Bruce.

By Caitlin O'Brien, Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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