Organ Failure: Ri.MED Symposium Focuses on the New Opportunities Provided by Cell Therapies and Biomedical Engineering for Transplant Recipients and/or Patients on Organ Transplant Waiting Lists
More than even before, customized medicine is getting closer to applications for patients affected with organ failure. The frame of reference includes transplant recipients, bound to lifelong immunosuppressive treatment in order to prevent rejection, and to the many patients on organ transplant waiting lists (this year more than 14,000 in Europe, according to data provided by Eurotransplant International Foundation) who would see an alternative to transplantation – regeneration, cell engineering, biomanufacturing and 3D printing – as the end of a nightmare.
This is the subject of the 13th Ri.MED Scientific Symposium, “Organ Insufficiency: Change It or Fix It” held today at Palazzo Steri, Palermo, where top-level experts in the field from around the world gathered. The first topic addressed was long-term survival of the transplanted organ. “We cannot just continue increasing immunosuppression to prevent organ rejection,” says Faid Lakkis, member of the Ri.MED Scientific Committee and Scientific Director of the Thomas E Starzl Transplant Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, “because these drugs can have significant adverse effects on patients. We should rather find new and safe ways to extend the life of the transplanted graft.” And now research is directed at finding new alternative strategies from mechanical organ reperfusion to the use of immune system cells, to cell therapy, in the experimental phase, which open up to great horizons.
“Regenerative medicine is making great strides. Today, new research and its implementation in the clinical setting pivot on three major approaches,” says Riccardo Gottardi, Ri.MED Principal Investigator and Director of Bioengineering and Biomaterials Laboratory of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The first is to exploit the role of the immune system to favor tissue regeneration; the second is tissue and 3D organ printing which, in the last five years, has rewritten the rules of research; and the third is the creation of in vitro models that perfectly reproduce human physiology to create increasingly effective and precise therapies.”
“Ri.MED’s mission is translating biotechnological and biomedical research into new treatments for patients, with translational research projects focused on aging-related diseases, organ failure, and cancer,” says Alessandro Padova, Director General of the Ri.MED Foundation, “studies that are strongly supported by the direct integration with IRCCS-ISMETT and our strategic partnership with Pittsburgh. The annual Ri.MED symposium allows us to take research to the highest level in Sicily, consistent with our priorities of disseminating scientific knowledge, training a new generation of researchers, and developing positive social and economic satellite activities in the south of Italy.”