Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.,
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P., Director, National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and Elizabeth
G. Nabel, M.D., Director, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
on the U. S. Transplant Games, July 11, 2008
As we mark the occasion of the opening of the National Kidney
Foundation’s United States Transplant Games, we honor the courageous
athletes preparing to compete in Pittsburgh. Not only have they
shown skill and stamina in preparing themselves for athletic competition,
they have accomplished this while overcoming significant challenges.
Each of these athletes has received an organ or bone marrow transplant
and is a living testament to the indomitable human spirit, the
scientific progress that has been achieved in transplantation research,
and the generosity and compassion of thousands of organ and bone
marrow donors and their families. We at the National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), all parts of
the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are committed to improving
the quality of life of transplant patients through our extensive
research programs and innovative clinical trials.
The United States Transplant Games celebrate the life-restoring
gift of organ transplantation and demonstrate that transplant recipients
can lead full, active and extraordinary lives. At the same time,
they remind us of the continual need for organ donors and the importance
of improved therapies for preventing organ rejection.
Each year in the United States, about 29,000 people receive an
organ transplant. However, nearly 100,000 others await the lifesaving
gift of a donated organ. Tragically, thousands will die before
a donor is located. Even for those fortunate enough to receive
an organ transplant, the daily regimen of anti-rejection drugs
presents additional challenges and risks of infection, cancer and
other chronic health issues.
NIAID supports basic research to enhance understanding of how
the immune system recognizes transplanted organs, tissues and cells
and the immune processes that lead to organ rejection and failure.
Building on this knowledge base, NIAID supports clinical programs
to evaluate therapies for treating rejection and prolonging graft
survival. Many of these trials include strategies for inducing
For example, NIAID sponsors the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN),
an international consortium developing therapies that re-educate
the immune system to avoid injurious immune responses and graft
rejection while preserving protective immunity against infectious
agents and certain cancers. ITN researchers have made significant
advances in weaning kidney and liver transplant recipients from
anti-rejection drugs. Another NIAID initiative, the Genomics of
Transplantation Cooperative Research Program, seeks to understand
the genetic basis of immune-mediated graft rejection and thereby
improve long-term graft survival and quality of life for transplant
NIDDK funds and conducts a wide range of basic and clinical research
to improve the success of organ and tissue transplantation. Studies
in kidney, liver, intestine and islet (clusters of cells in the
pancreas that produce insulin) transplantation include efforts
to prolong the viability of donor tissue, to develop therapies
that safely avert immune rejection of donor tissue and prolong
its function, to improve the quality of life in transplant recipients
and to understand the effects of living donation on donors.
NHLBI sponsors several networks in heart, lung and blood disorders
that are conducting clinical trials involving organ transplantation.
These include the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Research
Network supported jointly with the National Cancer Institute and
the Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplantation Study. NHLBI sponsors
multiple other studies of hematopoietic stem cells (stem cells
that are can produce the full range of blood cells) transplantation
for blood and immune system diseases. NHLBI investigators have
improved the effectiveness, lowered the toxicity, expanded the
sources of stem cells and broadened the indications for stem cell
transplants for blood disorders and cancer. NHLBI supports shared
resources for cell therapies for heart, lung and blood disorders.
As important as our individual efforts are, they are bolstered
by our partnering to share resources and expertise.
NIAID, with support from NHLBI, sponsors the Clinical Trials in
Organ Transplantation in Children program, a series of clinical
trials designed to improve graft acceptance and patient and graft
survival in organ transplant recipients under the age of 20 who
have undergone heart, lung, liver, kidney or intestinal transplantation.
NIAID has also joined forces with HHS’ Health Resources and Services
Administration to establish the Clinical Outcomes of Live Organ
Donors program, which is undertaking a study of the medical and
socioeconomic outcomes of individuals who have donated a kidney
or a lobe of lung for transplantation.
NIAID, NIDDK and NHLBI co-sponsor the Clinical Trials in Organ
Transplantation consortium, which is designed to enhance our understanding
of how the immune system rejects transplanted organs and to develop
tests that provide early warning of organ rejection.
As these games begin, we applaud these athletes who have overcome
debilitating conditions and the challenge of a transplant to lead
full and active lives. They are an inspiration for all who have
undergone a transplant or are about to receive a transplant as
well as to those considering giving the gift of life through organ
or bone marrow donation.
For more information on NIAID’s programs, see http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/topics/transplant/default.htm.
To learn how to become an organ donor, visit http://www.organdonor.gov/.
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is director of the National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of
Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.,
is director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Diseases. Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., is director of the
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,
a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research in diabetes
and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases,
nutrition, and obesity; and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases.
Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of
all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the
most common, severe, and disabling conditions affecting Americans.
For more information about NIDDK and its programs, see www.niddk.nih.gov.
Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports
research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment
of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders.
The Institute also administers national health education campaigns
on COPD, heart disease, and other topics. NHLBI press releases
and other materials are available online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health. NIAID
supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat
infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted
infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential
agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on basic immunology,
transplantation and immune-related disorders, including autoimmune
diseases, asthma and allergies. For more information about NIAID
and its programs, visit http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/.
Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID Office of Communications
at 301-402-1663, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers
and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic,
clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates
the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.
For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.