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Georg Heberer Award 2015

Hostile encounters in liver transplants

München, 06/26/2015

This year’s Georg Heberer Award goes to LMU immunologists Jörg Reifart and Markus Rentsch for their work on the origins of liver damage following transplantation of the organ.

Source: LMU

Today, LMU Munich observes Founder’s Day and, as is now customary on this occasion, the Georg Heberer Award for Medical Research will be presented to this year’s winners. The 2015 prize has been awarded to a team of LMU medical researchers and clinicians for a study entitled “Modulating CD4+ T Cell Migration in the Postischemic Liver: Hepatic Stellate Cells as New Therapeutic Target”, which appeared in the journal Transplantation. Lead authors on the paper were Jörg Reifart and PD Dr. Markus Rentsch from the Clinic for General, Visceral, Transplantation, Vascular and Thoracic Surgery at the LMU Medical Center.

The study by Reifart and colleagues probes the mechanisms responsible for ischemia reperfusion injury of the liver, i.e. damage associated with restoration of normal levels of blood-flow following a period of reduced oxygenation. The phenomenon is a major complication of liver surgery and thus of considerable clinical significance. Paradoxically, the potentially life-threatening damage to the organ incurred during ischemia can actually be exacerbated by the re-establishment of blood flow. Moreover, in the case of the liver this can have serious long-term consequences and may cause fibrosis of the organ. Previous studies had shown that much of the damage is caused by a specific class of immune cells called CD4+ T cells that migrate into the post-ischemic liver. In their award-winning work, the LMU researchers demonstrated that these CD4+ cells interact directly with another class of immune cells that reside in the liver, the so-called hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), and that the interaction requires activation of the HSCs via a specific receptor. The LMU team then confirmed the clinical significance of the interaction by showing that pharmacological blockade of the receptor on HSCs significantly reduces reperfusion injury of the post-ischemic liver. These findings point to novel therapeutic strategies for improving the outcome of liver transplantations.

Jörg Reifart studied Medicine at LMU and participated in the DFG-funded project that explored the role of immune cell interactions in the transplanted liver at LMU’s Walter Brendel Center for Experimental Medicine. Having qualified as a physician, Reifart began a residency in internal medicine and cardiology in Bad Soden. He continues to pursue his research for his doctoral degree at the Clinic for General, Visceral, Transplantation, Vascular and Thoracic Surgery in Munich.

Markus Rentsch studied Medicine at LMU, where he also obtained his doctoral degree. Following an internship in Regensburg University Hospital, he returned to the LMU Medical Center in 2007 as a Chief Resident, and was appointed Head of the Department of Liver Surgery there in 2010. In 2014 Rentsch became an Assistant Medical Director in the Clinic for General, Visceral, Transplantation, Vascular and Thoracic Surgery. He specializes in Visceral Surgery, Transplantation Surgery und Postsurgical Intensive Care.

The Heberer Award

The Georg Heberer Award, named after the surgeon Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Georg Heberer (1920-1999) and sponsored by the Chiles Foundation (Portland, Oregon), was presented for the first time in the year 2000. Heberer was Professor of Surgery and Director of the Department of Surgery at the Grosshadern Medical Campus in Munich. As a teacher and researcher, he was greatly respected for the breadth of his knowledge, and his surgical skills were internationally recognized. The Heberer Award is presented annually to researchers who have made notable contributions to surgery during the preceding year. The Prize is sponsored by the Chiles Foundation, which was founded over 50 years ago with the aim of supporting medical research particularly in the field of cancer. The Georg Heberer Awards are intended to support and encourage talented junior researchers based at German universities to pursue scientific projects in cooperation with international collaborators.

Prof. Dr. med. Rudolf A. Hatz
Klinik für Allgemeine, Viszeral-, Transplantations-, Gefäß-, und Thoraxchirurgie
Phone: +49 (0) 89/4400-76511 (Secretariat)