- The unit continues its international leadership in normothermic perfusion research. Professor Chris Watson’s research (Theme 1) has led to in situ normothermic regional perfusion (NRP) being adopted as the standard of care for liver transplantation from circulatory death donors in Scotland and Wales. A national service is also planned for England. NRP has more than doubled the utilization of DCD livers, whilst improving outcomes at the same time. Professors Andy Fisher and John Dark (Themes 1 and 3) have made advances in ex vivo normothermic perfusion of lungs and heart that have led to an invited editorial in Nature Medicine. Dr Sarah Hosgood, Professor Michael Nicholson, Mr Colin Wilson and colleagues (Themes 2 and 4) have now recruited 338 of the target of 400 patients into the multicentre randomised clinical trial of normothermic machine perfusion in DCD kidney transplantation.
- In collaboration with the Department of Chemistry in Cambridge, the Kosmoliaptsis group (Theme 5) has developed a novel bioassay based on microfluidic technology that can characterise alloantibody–HLA binding kinetics directly in patient sera without surface immobilisation. This has been used to demonstrate the importance of alloantibody affinity and concentration on the clinical significance of HLA-specific antibodies. Importantly, during the pandemic lockdown this technology was redirected to research into SARS-Cov-2 infection. The study involved antibody profiling that is unattainable with current methods to explore functional antibody responses (neutralisation and seroprotection). It is anticipated that this project will provide insights into the variability of the antibody response to the SARS-Cov-2 virus.
- A highly notable piece of work in this period was the NIHR-funded research involving BTRU colleagues to identify and test the acceptability of interventions that increase the rates of organ donation from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, a project awarded on the basis of the unit’s existing expertise. BTRU Deputy Director Andy Fisher and PPIE Lead Jenny Hasenfuss joined a multi-disciplinary team of evidence synthesis experts and qualitative researchers to perform a comprehensive literature review and develop logic models to explore the relationships between resources, activities, outputs, outcomes and impact. The findings were presented to NIHR, the three sister NIHR BTRUs and to NHSBT (which plans to share them with Department of Health and Social Care).
- The BTRU further strengthened its patient and public involvement and engagement in all of its activities. The Patient and Public Research Panel (PPRP) now has 50 members and a large number of this group attended the biannual BTRU meeting in Newcastle in October 2019. BTRU researchers embraced the contribution of the PPRP, which was enthusiastic, forthright and highly constructive, including their input on the funding extension application.
- The unit reached a significant milestone this year – 50 peer-reviewed articles have been published of work carried out by BTRU researchers. These include papers in Nature, Nature Medicine, Science Translational Medicine, Nature Metabolism, Redox Biology, Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation and American Journal of Transplantation.
- This was also the most active period yet for public engagement, with BTRU patient, public and research colleagues coming together to host talks and interactive stalls at a range of events including the World Transplant Games, Night at the Museum, Big Biology Day, Pint of Science and the Cambridge Science Festival.