Place: Vall d’Hebron Hospital, Barcelona (Spain)
Objective: Help a physician in training specialise in and research on hepatic transplant in the paediatric service of Vall d’Hebron Hospital.
The Foundation granted a one-year scholarship (January to December 2016) so a physician, still in academic training, could specialise in and research on hepatic transplant in the paediatrics service of Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona, under the supervision of Dr. Carlos Rodrigo Gonzalo de Liria, Head of the Paediatrics Service in Hospital Materno-Infantil Vall d’Hebron.
The need for more treatment breakthroughs
This scholarship is just another step to increase the number of physicians trained in a very specialised organ and field. Regardless of the excellent results of transplant programs, hepatic transplant is not exempt from complications. This is why the main lines of research of Vall d’Hebron Hospital focus on the improvement of transplant patients’ quality of life and hepatic cells transplant to prevent liver transplant.
At present, two main research programs are active, both focused on improving access to transplant among paediatric patients.
One program includes a close collaboration with Hospital de Saint Luc, in Brussels to transplant hepatocytes precursors in urea cycle disorders.
Urea cycle disorders are metabolic diseases characterised by a deficit in one of the five enzymes that help metabolise the proteins to create the urea (which can be excreted in urine). If not metabolised properly, these proteins generate substances that are toxic to our body. As hepatocytes work properly except for this function, the objective is to transfuse liver cells (hepatocytes) that remain in the liver and are capable to do this function without the need to transplant the whole organ.
The second program – conducted in the Hospital Universitario Materno Infantil de Vall d’Hebron – is a bioengineering project. The idea is to remove all the cells from the liver (decellularise the liver) leaving only a collagen scaffold, which is then filled with healthy hepatic cells so they can create a new liver that might be transplanted. In the future, these cells might even be genetically modified before being introduced in the collagen scaffold to avoid the need for immunosuppression.