Explore Research Innovation at the David Geffen School of Medicine
Jerzy Kupiec-Weglinski, PhDDirector, Dumont-UCLA Transplantation Research Center
Paul I. Terasaki Chair in Surgery at UCLA
Dr. Jerzy Kupiec-Weglinski's work improves the outcomes of liver transplantation. He examines the molecular signaling pathways leading to liver injury throughout the transplant continuum—from donor retrieval to long-term recipient care. His novel strategies:
1) Increase the availability and quality of livers by making deficient organs viable and reducing organ damage between retrieval and transplantation.
[PLACEHOLDER] “We're using the time between organ retrieval and transplantation to rejuvenate the organ to make it better and to prevent damage,” Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski says.
2) Decrease risks of long-term organ failure, which can occur years after surgery.
Although nearly 10% of patients in need of livers die on the waiting list, medical professionals must discard many donated livers due to quality concerns. Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski's work brings livers we might discard up to transplantable standards, reducing tragic medical waste and saving lives.
Organ injuries can occur at any point in the transplantation timeline. A liver can suffer damage as it exits the donor, as it waits for transplantation, and when it triggers chronic rejection, which can occur years after a procedure.
By studying the molecular processes behind damaging events at multiple transplantation touchpoints, Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski has pinpointed a variety of promising interventions and treatments to improve outcomes.
Discovery: A Protein Stops Cell Damage and Increases Liver Quality Following Donor Retrieval
Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski discovered a protein that, when modified, prevents the cellular damage, inflammation, and blood-flow related injuries often observed in extracted livers that are waiting to be transplanted. Read more in Native Macrophages Genetically Modified To Express Heme Oxygenase-1 Protect Rat Liver Transplants From Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury, published in Liver Transplantation.
Implication: Surgeons can leverage the protein to protect all livers from damage and even revitalize unusable livers.
Discovery: Specific Immune Receptors Contribute to Liver Injury Following Transplantation
Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski elucidated the innate immune pathways, receptors, and processes that lead to liver injury following transplantation. Read more in Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury-Induced Innate Immune Signaling in Human Orthotopic Liver Transplantation, a presentation abstract from the 2017 American Transplant Congress.
Implication: Mapping these processes provides a foundation for evidence-based interventions that keep transplanted livers functioning.
Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski is testing a variety of pathway interventions, including manipulation of SIRT1 signaling and targeting specific molecules in the immune regulatory axis.
Discovery: Existing Drugs Protect Against Liver Injury
Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski recently identified that a drug intended to treat heart failure also protects against liver injury. Read more in Serelaxin Induces Notch1 Signaling and Alleviates Hepatocellular Damage in Orthotopic Liver Transplantation, published in the American Journal of Transplantation.
Implication: Researchers can immediately test the developed drug in the context of transplant injury. They can also leverage aspects of the drug’s design to develop treatments targeting liver injury.
Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski envisions a future where every patient in need receives a viable organ and keeps that organ long term, without facing injury and loss of functionality. With support from a National Institutes of Health grant, he is poised to help transplant recipients enjoy longer, healthier lives.
Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski focuses on livers, but the treatments and processes he uncovers might improve a variety of other organ transplant outcomes. When perfected, Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski's rejuvenation and protection strategies could reduce the shortage of all organs around the world.
Help Dr. Kupiec-Weglinski and his team take on the global organ shortage by supporting immunology research >
Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center