• Liwei Jiang, PhD

    2020 John Merrill Grant in Transplantation
    Liwei Jiang, PhD

    Liwei Jiang, PhD

    2020 John Merrill Grant in Transplantation

    How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

    Our studies build a localized delivery of immune tolerogenic drugs to protect allografts at the wound sites of skin construct for burn patients and eliminate the need for administering systemic immunosuppression.

    Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.

    The primary focus of this proposal is to develop immunomodulatory materials to establish localized immune privileged areas for allografts and address some of the limitations on skin transplantation to increase its utility in humans. 

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

    Up to 70% of burn patients with severe burns die. Allograft placement represents a life-saving strategy for burn patients. However, allograft rejection severely limits their utility and immunosuppressive therapy in these patients is not warranted due to their markedly increased risk of infections. Therefore, our aim is to develop a novel immunomodulatory biomaterial that can interface between native tissue and skin allograft to extend the survival of skin allografts.

    What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?

    One of the main goals of this grant to address some of the limitations of skin transplantation to increase its utility in humans. Data from these studies can be translated to other vascularized organ transplant models, such as the kidney, and impact their clinical outcomes for patients.

    What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?

    My ultimate goal is to become an independent scientist in the area of transplantation immunobiology and to contribute further to ongoing research in this area. As a scientist, I aim to be at the forefront of scientific advances that translate into improved health of transplant recipients. 

    What has surprised you most about your career?

    I have had the opportunity to interact with an engineering team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with whom we have been working with for many years. My close interaction with the engineering team has placed me at the forefront of a project aimed at optimizing the bioactive properties of a tissue scaffold. I have learned the basics of material synthesis and the release of immunoregulatory molecules, which have in turn allowed me to fully optimize the material specifically for transplantation.

    What are the major challenges facing nephrology research today?

    Organ transplantation has become the gold standard strategy for saving the lives of thousands of patients with irreversible organ diseases. In solid organ transplantation, including kidney transplantation, allograft rejection will probably be the emerging challenge. Our studies of immunosuppression in skin transplantation can be translated to the kidney in the future.

    What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?

    This grant was a resubmission. Although the process of resubmission is painful, it is the best experience I could have. 

    Something you may not know about me is…

    I like to stay at home.

    In my free time I like to…

    I am a mother of 2-year old boys, so actually I don't have too much free time.