Stefan G. Tullius, MD, PhD, Awarded $2.5M National Institutes of Health Grant

Stefan G. Tullius, MD, PhD, has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for his study “Senescent cells drive mt-DNA accumulation and inflamm-aging.”

The sharp discrepancy between demand and supply of organs causes high mortality and morbidity rates in waitlisted patients. Organ transplantation is hampered by a limited supply of organs, with many patients waiting for numerous years and numerous patients dying before getting a transplant. The aging population is also on the rise, and although organs from older donors are available, they are frequently not considered or discarded with concerns of compromised function and augmented immunogenicity. With aging, senescent cells accumulate, producing increasing amounts of inflammatory products.

This grant will delineate specific immune responses when transplanting older organs. Dr Tullius and his group will test if the depletion of senescent cells through senolytics will improve transplant outcomes and modify immune responses. The proposal will also test if senescent cells will be transferred in organ transplants and if those senescent cells will impact aging. As donor and recipient ages may vary substantially, it is also possible that aging processes in transplant recipients may be either accelerated or that the transplantation of a younger organ will slow aging. The supported research may help to increase the availability of organs for transplants, delineate organ-age specific immune responses and determine the fate of senescent cells transferred with organ transplantation.  Optimizing the utilization and outcomes of older transplanted organs is also expected to reduce mortality and morbidity rates of waitlisted patients with end-stage organ failure.

Stefan G Tullius, MD, PhD
Chief, Division of Transplant Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Director, Transplant Surgery Research Laboratory

Dr. Tullius is the chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He received his medical degree from the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany; a PhD from the Charité in Berlin, Germany; and a (honorary) Master of Arts from Harvard University.  He has published over 280 peer-reviewed articles, led numerous externally funded studies, and is frequently invited to speak locally, nationally, and internationally.

His research career in transplantation immunology covers a period of more than 15 years and has greatly contributed to an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of long-term graft failure. His more recent research interests include individualized immunosuppression and the investigation of basic mechanisms of clinically relevant aspects in organ transplantation, focusing on novel routes for optimized utilization of organs for transplantation and organ preservation/perfusion. Dr. Tullius has also contributed with pioneering work in face, hand and uterus transplantation.

In addition to his clinical practice and research interests, Dr. Tullius has contributed to the international transplant community with his editorial, societal and committee activities. He is an executive editor of Transplantation, associate editor of Transplant International, and has served as associate and consulting editor of the American Journal of Transplantation. He has also served on the board of the European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT) and was the founding chair of the Basic Science Committee of ESOT. He has co-chaired several international meetings for The Transplantation Society (TTS), chaired several committees for the American Society of Transplantation (AST) and was the founding chair of the AST Vascular Composite Tissue Transplant Committee.

Dr. Tullius is currently a member of the Declaration of Istanbul Custodian Group (DICG), the senior treasurer of TTS and vice president of the International Society of Uterus Transplantation (ISUTx). In recognition of his contributions, Dr. Tullius has received several awards, including the Clinical Science Investigator Award of the AST, the Joseph E. Murray and Simon J. Simonian Award and the Excellence in Kidney Transplantation Award by the National Kidney Foundation.