Fanny Chapelin, research assistant professor in the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), and Aman Khurana, M.D., assistant professor radiology in the UK College of Medicine with a joint appointment in BME, have joined the T Cells to Induce Liver Tolerance (TILT) alliance through the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. The alliance will foster a collaborative relationship between Chapelin, Khurana and Roberto Gedaly M.D. Chief of Transplantation Division, Department of Surgery and Francesc Marti, associate professor in the Department of Surgery.
The “TILT” alliance was recently created to support translational and clinical research in transplant/immunology related to the use of cell immunotherapy to induce tolerance in solid organ transplantation. The co-leaders of this alliance, Dr. Gedaly and Marti, have been working together for more than six years. Their clinical and translational research program has established fruitful collaborations with other departments and divisions in our institution, including Biochemistry, Microbiology-Immunology-Molecular Genetics, Radiology, Biomedical Engineering, Internal Medicine, Hepatology, Nephrology and Pathology. They are currently running a novel, FDA-approved, pilot study of adoptive transfer of ex vivo expanded regulatory T cells (Tregs) in kidney transplant recipients (ClinicalTrials.gov ID: NCT03284242). This is the only active clinical pilot study using Treg cells in solid-organ transplantation in the state of Kentucky and the Appalachian region, and one of the only 6 active protocols using this technology in the US. The ultimate goal is to eventually reduce or completely stop drug-induced immunosuppression, which has significant toxicity in patients. They are currently generating data addressing the implementation of a first-in-class clinical trial in liver transplant patients to induce hepatic tolerance. As part of this project, they are mentoring Chapelin and Khurana. Currently, this collaboration focuses on the optimization and validation of a novel non-invasive cell tracking system for T cell-based immunotherapy using MR imaging. They are also working together with the Biospecimen Bank and Tissue Procurement Shared Resource Facility of the Markey Cancer Center using the GEOMx digital spatial profiler (DSP) platform to study the phenotypic and mRNA abundance of liver resident Treg cells in the normal and transplanted liver allograft.