News Release

Friday, July 11, 2008

Statement on the U. S. Transplant Games

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

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 immune tolerance.

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 recipients.

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 To learn how to become an organ donor, visit

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

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

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 Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID Office of Communications at 301-402-1663,

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 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. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®