UBC Vancouver: Innovative coating for blood vessels reduces rejection of transplanted organs

Dr. Kizhakkedathu’s team synthesized a polymer to mimic these sugars and developed a chemical process for applying it to the blood vessels. He worked with UBC chemistry professor Dr. Stephen Withers and the study’s co-lead authors, PhD candidate Daniel Luo and recent chemistry PhD Dr. Erika Siren.


“I remember seeing an organ sitting in a solution and thinking, ‘Here’s a perfect window to engineer something right,’” Dr. Siren recalled. “There aren’t a lot of situations where you’ve got this beautiful four-hour window where the organ is outside the body, and you can directly engineer it for therapeutic benefit.”

The work of Simon Fraser University’s Dr. Jonathan Choy and Winnie Enns confirmed that a mouse artery, coated in this way and then transplanted, would exhibit strong, long-term resistance to inflammation and rejection. Dr. Caigan Du of UBC and Dr. Jenny Zhang of Northwestern University then got similar results from a kidney transplant between mice. Dr. Megan Levings of UBC and the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute firmed up the findings using new-generation immune cells.

“We were amazed by the ability of this new technology to prevent rejection in our studies,” said Dr. Choy, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU. “To be honest, the level of protection was unexpected.”

The procedure has been applied only to blood vessels and kidneys in mice so far. Clinical trials in humans could still be several years away. Still, the researchers are optimistic it could work equally well on lungs, hearts and other organs, which would be great news for prospective recipients of donated organs.

In 2019, more than 3,000 Canadians underwent organ transplantation with the aim of averting end-stage organ failure.

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