I. Raul Badell Receives 2018 ASTS-Astellas Faculty Development Grant

Raul Badell

I. Raul Badell

April 2018

Emory kidney/pancreas transplant surgeon I. Raul Badell, MD, has been selected to receive the American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS) Foundation's Astellas Faculty Development Grant for his proposal, "Circulating T Follicular Helper Cells as a Biomarker for Donor-Specific Alloantibodies in Transplantation." He will be formally presented with the award during the 2018 American Transplant Congress, June 2-June 6, in Seattle, WA.

Competitive applications for the ASTS-Astellas Faculty Development Grant must be directed toward discovery and validation of biomarkers of organ function and rejection, analysis of diagnostic and predictive patterns of donor specific alloantibodies, and elucidation of mechanisms and therapy for B cell alloantibody responses. The grants are designed to support a junior faculty member in the development of transplant research so that further funding can be obtained.

Since joining the Emory transplant faculty in 2015, Dr. Badell's research has primarily focused on investigations of the cellular interactions responsible for the formation of donor-specific antibodies (DSAs) which influence chronic renal allograft rejection and fibrosis, so that current immunosuppressive strategies can be optimized and novel therapies developed to control DSA production. With this grant, he hopes to explore the development of circulating T follicular helper (cTfh) cells, which assist in mediating antibody responses, as a biomarker to aid in the diagnosis and management of deleterious DSAs in transplantation.

Dr. Badell's first step in this investigation will be to define the range of cTfh cell sub-types and examine their quantity and quality over time in non-transplant and transplant patient cohorts without DSA. He will then use the data acquired from these control cohorts to guide the subsequent analysis and interpretation of cTfh cell quality and kinetics in a unique cohort of transplant recipients with newly formed DSA.

After identifying the proliferative forces and characteristics of cTfh cells that occur during the development of DSA, Dr. Badell hopes to be able to evaluate their use in larger studies as a cellular biomarker for the diagnosis and prediction of alloantibody-mediated processes in transplantation as well as a pathway to assist in defining new therapeutic targets against antibody-enacted rejection.

"The data obtained from this proposal will inform the design of prospective human immunology studies aimed at further development and validation of cTfh cells and their subsets for diagnostic and predictive purposes in the field of transplantation," says Dr. Badell.

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