Young doctor opening the doors to transplants from non-matching donors
Safe transplantation of organs or cells from any donor to any recipient is closer to realization than one might think, thanks to groundbreaking work of Agnieszka Czechowicz, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, and her colleagues at Stanford.
Prof. Czechowicz, being one of the newest and youngest faculty members within the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Stem Cell Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine has already got some outstanding accomplishments on her resume. Her research concerns improving bone marrow transplantation by understanding how hematopoietic stem cells interact with their microenvironment and modulating these interactions. She aims at enabling regenerative medicine, developing novel treatments and developing collaborations across disease areas.
The young scholar co-authored many influential papers and most recently she has been a part of a team that studied an antibody-drug combo that may change the course of translational medicine by obviating the need for tissue-matching in organ transplant. The scientists came closer to resolving one of the biggest contemporary problems in that area – the wait. Even though the technology of transplantation is advanced, there still remains a problem of waiting for a matching donor, and if a close but not exact match is found, of taking drugs with many side effects for the rest of the patient’s life.
The second study expanded the idea and shown that the antibody-drug conjugate with a short-course of immune suppression can help to replace some of the blood-producing stem cells with non matching donor stem cells. This result is based on creating a chimera – the combination of the original and transplanted cells. As Czechowicz said: “Using this technique to make recipients tolerant to donor organ is incredibly exciting”. The method is relatively safe, inducing tolerance without the need for chronic immune suppression with no need to match donors and recipients for tissue type.
Another one of Czechowicz’s innovative works is a continuation of a laboratory study she begun as a graduate student. It focuses on decreasing the need for dangerous chemotherapy and radiation after bone marrow transplants using an antibody-based treatment. After a success among non-human primates, the researchers embarked on a clinical trial of the antibody at Stanford and the University of California-San Francisco in children with an immune disorder called severe combined immunodeficiency.
The Stanford’s Pediatrics rising star is not only a passionate physician and scholar, but also she cares deeply for improving patient-care. She is dedicated to mentoring and training next generations of medical students and encourages their career development in both traditional and non-traditional paths.
Written by Agnieszka Dzierżak, Dare Magazine