Mid-America Transplant Foundation Hosts First Research and Innovation Symposium

Posted January 29, 2018 in News Category

The Mid-America Transplant Foundation showcased groundbreaking research in the field of organ and tissue donation at its first Research and Innovation Symposium on January 18, 2018. Clinical researchers who have received funding from the Mid-America Transplant Foundation, presented progress on their research, which is expected to impact donation and transplantation within the next three to five years.

9-118a0583rwebres2The Mid-America Transplant Foundation is supporting groundbreaking research aimed at improving the lives of transplant patients with its Clinical Innovation Fund.

“This evening really showcased the local, cutting-edge research that will soon impact the industry on a national level,” said Dr. Gary Marklin, Chief Medical Officer at Mid-America Transplant. “It’s exciting to see the progress of these innovative projects, and we look forward to hosting many more research symposiums in the future.”

To date, the Foundation has awarded $1.29 million in funding to innovative clinical research that will address issues in the area of organ and/or tissue transplantation and will have a measurable impact on the field. 

“We believe funding specifically for organ and tissue donation research is an innovation in our industry. There’s nothing else quite like it,” Mid-America Transplant President and CEO Diane Brockmeier said. “We appreciate the dedication and commitment shown by these researchers, and we’re excited to see their inspiring work impact the national stage.”

The research included:

  • Dr. Gregory Ewald and his team from the Department of Cardiology at Washington University School of Medicine are exploring data from 500 heart donors in St. Louis over the past eight years. They have completed a one-year retrospective analysis of transplanted hearts to identify markers that may predict the successful transplant of donor hearts. In the next few months, they will begin a prospective trial utilizing this data. If successful, the results potentially increase the number of lifesaving heart transplants and improved patient outcomes.
  • Dr. Raj Dhar of the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine researched two different types of thyroid hormone therapy and its impact on the function of the heart of potential organ donors. While heart function improved equally with both types of thyroid medication in this randomized study, more hearts were transplanted with the use of T3 rather than T4. This research was accepted for a poster presentation at the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation national meeting in France.
  • Dr. Mark Schnitzler, from Saint Louis University’s Department of Surgery, and his team are studying the financial barriers preventing the investment in new technologies needed to make organs available that are discarded under the current system. They have analyzed cost reports for kidneys with outcomes data from the United Network for Organ Sharing. Their initial findings are under review with the American Journal of Transplantation. Moving forward, the team continues to seek alternative pricing options for organs, specifically looking at technologies that may improve the function of marginal organs. The results of this study could influence policy change, which could make more lifesaving transplants available nationwide.
  • Drs. Anthony Lubniewski, Joel Palko and Catherine Reppa from the Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Department at Washington University School of Medicine have conducted research into the durability of thinner corneal tissue transplants in repairing corneas damaged by infection or perforation. To date, they’ve found no difference in the durability of thinner corneal material. The benefits of thinner corneal material including shorter operating room times and the ability to provide two transplants with one cornea. The team hopes to implement the practice within five years.
  • Drs. Rajendra Apte and Jonathan Miner of Washington University School of Medicine are studying the Zika virus and its ability to spread through human tears and corneal transplants. While they have found the virus survives in Optisol, a common liquid used to preserve corneas, their research thus far has shown that Zika does not survive in tears. They continue to study the transmission of Zika virus through corneal transplants and the effectiveness of an antibacterial solution used to kill Zika in an infected cornea. This pre-clinical study will provide important data to eye bank professionals, corneal surgeons and the scientific community by answering critical questions about corneal transplants.
  • Dr. Gary Marklin of Mid-America Transplant and Dr. Raj Dhar of the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine studied the effect of Naloxone on oxygenation in potential lung donors in a multi-organ procurement organization (OPO), randomized, controlled trial. Based on limited scientific evidence, OPOs throughout the nation have used Naloxone to improve lung function in brain dead donors and the number of lungs transplanted. The study by Drs. Marklin and Dhar did not demonstrate any significant improvement in oxygenation, nor lung transplantation rates with Naloxone. Because of the results of this study, Mid-America Transplant has stopped using Naloxone in their organ donors. The abstract of this research has also been accepted for oral presentation at the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation national meeting in France.

The Mid-America Transplant Foundation recently announced a third RFP for clinical research within the guidelines of the Clinical Innovation Fund. More information about the RFP can be found here.

About Mid-America Transplant
Mid-America Transplant enables adults and children to receive lifesaving gifts through organ and tissue donations. For more than 40 years, it has facilitated and coordinated organ and tissue donation, and now serves 84 counties covering eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and northeast Arkansas that together are home to 4.7 million people. It saves lives by providing expert and compassionate care for organ and tissue donors, recipients and families, and transforms the clinical processes required to recover and transplant organs and tissues. Mid-America Transplant was the first such organization in the U.S. to use an in-house operating room for organ recovery and pioneered innovative models of increasing donor registry enrollment to provide more organs and tissues to those in need. It is federally designated as one of 58 such organizations in the U.S., and is the first organ procurement organization to be recognized as a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for Performance Excellence.

About Mid-America Transplant Foundation
The Mid-America Transplant Foundation seeks to reduce the need for organ and tissue transplantation; increase the availability of organs and tissues for those who need them; and to improve the lives of recipients and donor families. For more information, visit


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