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Columbia Center for Translational Immunology

The Transplant Forum at Columbia University Medical Center is dedicated to raising awareness and funding for transplantation research across all organ disciplines. To learn more about ongoing research at Columbia’s Center for Translational Immunology, please see several projects highlighted here:

Megan Sykes, MD

Dr. Sykes and colleagues were the first to achieve transplant tolerance (to kidney grafts) by using a bone marrow transplant to create a state of “mixed chimerism.” Mixed chimerism refers to a blended immune system, in which a transplant recipient’s body has been educated to recognize a donor organ as “self,” and not reject it. Today, Dr. Sykes and her team are working to extend this approach to other organs and to islet (pancreas) cells. They have developed a new technique involving bone marrow and regulatory T cells that has shown success in a large animal model.

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Megan Sykes, MD

The Sykes lab is building on one of its innovations: “personalized immune” mice, which use bone marrow stem cells to recreate a patient’s immune system. The mice provide a model for understanding the immune differences that predispose to type 1 diabetes and the immune responses to transplanted beta cells. The model is also being extended to cancer patients to allow personalized assessment of immunotherapies for cancer.

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Megan Sykes, MD, Jean Emond, MD, Elizabeth Verna, MD, and Mercedes Martinez, MD

The Sykes lab has developed a method of identifying T cells that recognize the donor, as well as a way to track these T cells in transplant recipients. This offers a new way to understand how combined transplantation of bone marrow and kidney re-educates the immune system. Exciting preliminary data suggests the method may provide a remarkably accurate and non-invasive way of diagnosing and perhaps even predicting rejection. Studies are now planned in autoimmune hepatitis/liver transplantation patients in collaboration with Drs. Emond, Verna, and Martinez.

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Megan Sykes, MD, David Sachs, MD, Kaz Yamada, MD and Adam Griesemer, MD

The CCTI’s work on xenotransplantation—the use of donor organs from other species—aims to allow the use of pancreatic islets from pigs for transplantation into people. This work will be key to supplementing the limited supply of human organs and islets for transplantation. Dr. Sykes and her team have developed a “humanized” mouse model that has demonstrated two successful approaches to achieving tolerance to pig grafts. Several faculty members have been recruited to take these approaches to the next level, i.e. the pig to primate model: Drs. Adam Griesemer, Kaz Yamada, and David H. Sachs.

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Emmanuel Zorn, PhD

The Segal Family Biobank collects biological samples which are a crucial resource for translational research. Its mission is to prospectively collect and store samples from recipients of all types of transplants and make these materials available to investigators for clinical research studies. This wealth of available data is critical to our ability to conduct cutting-edge scientific research to further our understanding of organ failure and transplantation. 

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