The themes studied in this context are:
- Preventing sensitization by matching for HLA on the epitope level
- Detection of circulating HLA-specific memory B cells in transplant candidates
- Transplanting highly sensitized patients based on acceptable HLA antigens
- Novel treatment options for highly sensitized patients
The aim of the work performed in these four themes is to maximize long-term graft survival for patients who underwent solid organ transplantation and to provide the best chance for already sensitized patients to receive a compatible donor organ. Firstly, we focus on the differential immunogenicity of HLA molecules by studying HLA epitope matching with the aim to minimize sensitization upon transplantation. Secondly, we study the role of HLA-specific memory B cell compartment in the outcome of transplantation by using innovative monitoring assays in high-risk transplant recipients. Thirdly, we study the effect of organ allocation to highly sensitized patients based on acceptable HLA antigens instead of merely avoiding unacceptable antigens, with the future prospective to switch to acceptable HLA epitopes. Finally, we are developing novel treatment options to eliminate HLA-specific B cells, and to prevent the deleterious effects of donor specific antibodies. Our research is embedded in the LUMC Transplant Center and is performed in close collaboration with our HLA diagnostics laboratory with the aim to bring novel techniques and insights to clinical practice.