McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty members Abhinav Humar, MD (pictured top), chief of transplantation and a staff physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and professor in the department of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and George Mazariegos, MD (pictured bottom), pediatric liver and intestine transplant surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, are part of the UPMC’s team of world transplant experts as surgeons who guide people to new lives as organ recipients and as researchers who move the field forward. Drs. Humar and Mazariegos and members of the UPMC team of experts have been performing successful organ transplants for longer than most medical center teams throughout the nation. That's because UPMC was one of the first centers to use the breakthrough drugs that keep patients' immune systems from rejecting their new organs. Also, clinical scientists at UPMC have a long history of helping to develop new antirejection therapies that work better with fewer side effects -- so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. The latest work of Pittsburgh researchers may greatly reduce the need for antirejection medications, or even eliminate the need for them altogether.
UPMC experts also have a distinguished history of pioneering and perfecting new transplant procedures, making it possible to treat even more diseases -- conditions that would otherwise cut short a human life. Our surgeons have accomplished several world-firsts, including the first transplants of several organs at a time and the first intestine, lung, and pancreas transplants. But none of these landmarks would have been achieved if scientists had not first undertaken exacting laboratory work to show that these operations would be feasible and effective.
Today, close to 15,000 people are listed for a liver transplant in the United States. Each year about 9,000 new cases are added to this list, but only 5,000 livers from deceased donors are available for liver transplantation. About 1,400 people die each year waiting for a new liver.
In the last 10 years or so, living-donor liver transplantation has been developed to help overcome the organ donor shortage and save lives. This procedure involves removing a portion of a healthy living donor’s liver to help someone already on the waiting list for a liver. At first, people who received living-donor livers were almost always children; that was because children don't need as large a liver as adults, and it allowed the surgeons to use the smaller (left) part of the donor's liver. But the increasing number of deaths each year in adults on the liver transplant list, combined with the growing shortage of deceased donors, has led to the use of this surgery in adults as well. Dr. Humar was recently interviewed by KDKA TV for his role in a living-donor liver transplantation between and an uncle and his young nephew. Watch that story here.
Transplant patients come to UPMC from more than 2,000 towns and cities in America and 30 foreign countries. UPMC offers a wide range of auxiliary services to ensure that patients and their families receive the highest standard of coordinated care. This care is responsive to each patient's clinical, cultural, and spiritual needs. Services provided begin in coordination with the patient's doctors at home, before arrival in the United States, and continue long after treatment.
One young transplant patient from Saudi Arabia had been separated from his home country and most of his family since 1995. He returned home late in 2009. "His major operations have included his first intestinal transplant, then the removal of that transplant, which had failed because of chronic rejection, and then in the course of time he was able to be prepared and listed for a second transplant, which included the liver, intestine, and pancreas," said Dr. Mazariegos, the transplant surgeon. Then, in 2002, the patient needed a kidney transplant, and his brother arrived in Pittsburgh to provide the organ. To prevent further rejection, doctors needed to monitor the patient here; future medical follow up will continue now that he has returned home. Read and watch more from Dr. Mazariegos and this patient during their WTAE TV interview here.
Today, UPMC performs more types of transplantation than any other center in the world, including liver, kidney, pancreas, small bowel, liver/small bowel, heart, heart/lung, double-lung, single-lung, and multiple-organ transplants. Since 1981, more than 17,000 organ transplants have been conducted. More important than the number of procedures is the number of people who thrive as a result: UPMC's transplant recipients have survival rates that are higher than the national average.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC Transplantation Services
Transplantation Services: Living-Donor Liver Transplantation
University of Pittsburgh Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute
Bio: Dr. Abhinav Humar
Bio: Dr. George Mazariegos