A collaboration of researchers from MUSC and Clemson University have teamed up to create a medical device designed to help transplant patients get medicine they need for the body to accept the new organ.
Dr. Satish Nadig and his partner Dr. Karl Atkinson operate the only comprehensive transplant research lab in South Carolina at MUSC. They, working with undergraduate students with the Clemson Bioengineering, created a device that is injected into the transplanted tissue to direct application of anti-rejection medications.
“We collaborated with the Clemson Bioengineering department and developed a subdermal — or under the skin — catheter-less implantable port that’s made of titanium,” Nadig said. “That port can get cellular therapies or any sort of anti-rejection therapy injected directly to the graft itself such that the patient doesn’t need to take anti-rejection medication that suppresses their whole body’s immune response.”
Transplant patients currently must take anti-rejection medications in forms of pills, which affect the entire body. This implantable port for cellular therapies and localized drug delivery would be used for transplants involving vascular composite tissue, such as limbs, hands or face.
“So patients can still fight off infections and cancers, et cetera, while their organ enjoys the effects of being immuno-suppressed,” Nadig said. “We don’t have a way to keep organs lasting for long periods of time and so we’ve turned to, in our lab, ways to target the anti-rejection medication to the organ itself.”
Current cellular therapy devices fail to address two of the biggest issues of administration: prevention of immune rejection and maintenance of an oxygenated environment for the cells. Additionally, localized delivery of drugs, especially for pain management and cancer, has become of increasing interest as an alternative to systemic administration of therapeutics with habit forming or toxic side effects.
“If we can target those therapies to the specific organ or the specific tissues, then people can be free of anti-rejection medication and can be free of the side-effects of anti-rejection medications such as cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease,” he said.
The team has just applied for a patent for the device.
“The therapies that we can inject through this port is very impactful worldwide,” he said. “This is really paradigm-shifting to be able to give a type of cellular therapy to the graft itself.”
Dr. Nadig said this is the first time his lab has collaborated with undergraduate researchers at Clemson.
“Really highlights the team science approach and the collaborative nature and the talent that’s in South Carolina, where you take a university setting that has strong bioengineering and then put them in conjunction with the medical setting and you can get bench to bedside sort of approaches like this,” he said.
“The power of collaboration and the talent that’s in South Carolina can come together to look at different perspectives to achieve a solution to a major problem.”