Young Female Researcher Paving the Way in Transplantation Research
Could stem cell therapy replace a patient’s dependence on pharmaceutical drugs following an organ transplant? It could be possible, thanks to the work of researchers all over the globe, including local Adelaide researcher, Ms Kisha Sivanathan.
Working with Professor Toby Coates, Kisha has recently submitted her PhD at the Centre for Clinical and Experimental Transplantation at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH). Here, she has made some incredible progress in her investigation of this new stem cell therapy that may replace current treatments for patients undergoing transplantation rejection.
In recognition of her talent and hard work, Kisha was recently awarded the University of Adelaide’s Women’s Research Excellence Award for her outstanding achievements as a young researcher.
“This award supports my professional and personal development as a woman in the field of transplantation research,” Kisha said.
Explaining her research, Kisha said “current organ transplant patients are dependent on life-long administration of pharmaceutical immunosuppressive drugs. The problem is long term dependence on these non-specific drugs can result in life threatening conditions such as cancer.
“I’ve been investigating adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which can be obtained from many tissues in the body, are therapeutic in nature and have the ability to cultivate quickly.
“MSC can migrate specifically to sites of graft rejection to facilitate tissue repair and prevent inflammatory response in rejection.”
Through this research, Kisha discovered an influential protein that combined with MSC therapy could be a more effective way of controlling rejection response that occur following a patient’s organ transplantation.
“My research focuses on this interaction of MSC with this potent protein that occurs naturally in the body during severe inflammation and in patients who are undergoing transplantation rejection.
“MSC treated with this protein grows faster than untreated MSC and are more effective at preventing and treating human immune inflammatory diseases – particularly in controlling rejection responses that occur following organ transplantation.”
Given her promising findings and with this prestigious award under her belt, Kisha is eager to follow her PhD findings through to clinical trials, hoping the future will hold a new treatment option for patients suffering from organ rejection.
“The development of this new stem cell therapy may help patients ‘accept’ transplants while repairing tissue damage. It may thereby reduce the detrimental side effects such as cancer.”
Thanks to her recent Women’s Research Award, Kisha was able to attend the American Transplant Congress and a meeting at the Harvard Medical Institute, in Boston. She is now more determined than ever to one day achieve her ultimate research goal – a world without dependence on pharmaceutical drugs after a transplant.
“The holy grail of transplantation is to achieve tolerance, a term defined as the long-term acceptance and survival of a transplanted organ without ongoing use of pharmaceutical drugs,” she said.
“My career aspiration is to develop a new adult stem cell therapy to prevent, treat and promote tolerance in transplant patients, thereby reducing side effects of long-term drug administration.”
Grateful for the support of Professor Toby Coates and his research team, Kisha is eagerly leading the way for women working in the field of research in transplantation.
“I enjoy working with this team as we actively engage in recent research advances in the field of transplantation.
“I am very enthusiastic and driven to promote leadership, positive work attitudes and career advancements for women in the Cell Transplant and Regenerative Medicine Society, where I am actively involved as a Young Investigator Committee member.”