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Hand Transplant Program Awarded $850,000 Federal Funding - Archived



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Barbara Mackovic, Senior Manager
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Hand Transplant Program Awarded $850,000 Federal Funding

Jewish Hospital, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, Christine M. Kleinert Institute and University of Louisville will use cell-based therapy to reduce hand transplant rejection


Louisville, Ky. (September 27, 2013) – The Louisville Vascularized Composite Allograft (VCA) program, a partnership of physicians, researchers and healthcare providers from Jewish Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health; the Christine M. Kleinert Kutz Institute for Hand and Microsurgery (CMKI); the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center; and the University of Louisville, has been awarded $850,000 to fund a clinical trial of a new treatment that will help prevent rejection of hand transplants.


The funding comes as part of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) research program. AFIRM II is a five-year, $75 million federally-funded project that will focus on applying regenerative medicine to battlefield injuries.


The group developed the pioneering hand transplant procedure and has performed nine hand transplants on eight patients since 1999. The clinical trial will be led by primary investigator Joseph Kutz, M.D., partner with Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, and will take place at Jewish Hospital and Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center with research taking place at the CMKI and the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a partnership of Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville.


While Composite Tissue Allotransplantation (CTA) is a viable option for soldiers with combat-related catastrophic tissue loss of the hands, an obstacle to successful hand transplantation is the need for lifelong immunosuppression drugs. The AFIRM II funding will enable Louisville VCA researchers to explore the potential for a cell-based therapy to improve the immune system’s response to a hand transplant, and ultimately lessen or eliminate the need for immune-suppressant drugs. Results of this trial will be far-reaching and benefit not only military patients, but all hand transplant recipients.


“Many soldiers who could benefit from a hand transplant are in their 20s, and would need 50 or more years of medication to prevent rejection,” said Dr. Kutz. “This new treatment of stromal and vascular fraction (SVF) cell therapy could mitigate or eliminate the complications brought on by lifelong immunosuppression, giving more soldiers the option of hand transplant who may not have been candidates before.”


“Nearly all hand transplant patients experience some degree of rejection, so the need for our research is great. Receiving our first federal AFIRM grant will enable Jewish Hospital, CMKI and the University of Louisville to be at the forefront of research to advance the field of hand transplantation,” said Michael Marvin, M.D., director of transplantation at Jewish Hospital, associate professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville, and a collaborating investigator on the new trial.


Regenerative medicine takes advantage of the body’s natural healing powers to restore or replace damaged tissue and organs. In the Louisville VCA trial, cells from adipose (white fat) tissue will be isolated from the transplant patient and injected into the hand transplant graft. These SVF cells have been shown to reduce inflammation and activate immune responses. Researchers believe that the injection of these cells into transplant recipients will dramatically reduce rates of rejection, as well as the need for anti-rejection drugs. One to two transplant recipients each year for five years will be enrolled in the trial.


“Investigators at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute are excited to join an incredible team of investigators to advance clinical implementation of regenerative medicine therapies,” said Stuart K. Williams, II, Ph.D., executive and scientific director, Cardiovascular Innovation Institute.


“This funding is a fantastic opportunity for the Louisville VCA Program.  The mission of AFIRM II is to accelerate solutions to treat battlefield injuries.  We are honored to be able to contribute to that mission.  In addition it highlights to the world the unique collaboration we have in Louisville, and allows us to share our results and advances with other cutting edge teams within the consortium.  It also positions our program for additional clinical trial funding in the future. I could not be more thrilled about this award.” said Christina L. Kaufman, Ph.D., executive director of the CMKI and a collaborating investigator on the AFIRM II-funded clinical trial.


The first phase of AFIRM, which began in 2008, resulted in clinical studies of face transplantation, minimally invasive surgery for craniofacial injuries, a lower-dose anti-rejection regimen after kidney transplantation, scar reduction treatments, fat grafting for reconstructive surgery and new treatments for burns. AFIRM II will focus on clinical trials involving restoration of function to severely traumatized limbs; reconstruction for facial and skull injuries through tissue regeneration; skin regeneration for burn injuries; new treatments to prevent rejection of “composite” transplants such as face and hands; and reconstruction of the genital and urinary organs and lower abdomen.


About Jewish Hospital
Jewish Hospital, a part of KentuckyOne Health, is an internationally renowned high-tech tertiary referral center developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, home care, rehab medicine (including sports medicine), orthopaedics, neuroscience, occupational health, organ transplantation and outpatient and primary care.  Site of the world’s first successful hand transplant, the world’s first and second successful AbioCor® Implantable Replacement Heart procedures, and world’s first trial of cardiac stem cells in chronic heart failure, the hospital is in the select group that performs heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplantation.


About the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery

Named in honor of Dr. Kleinert's mother, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery (CMKI) is a world-renowned nonprofit education and research organization funded by the Kleinert-Kutz Endowment for Education and Research in Hand and Micro Surgery. The physicians of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center teach the next generation of hand surgeons through CMKI’s accredited fellowship program, which is cooperative effort with the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Fellows are fully trained plastic, orthopedic, or general surgeons from around the world who come to Louisville to get additional training in hand and micro surgery. To date, more than 1,274 physicians from 61 countries have served as Fellows. Dozens of research projects refining surgical techniques, testing new devices, and pushing the frontiers of basic and clinical science in the field of hand surgery are currently underway. CMKI also provides patient rehabilitation services after surgery and patient recovery services without surgery through the Hand Therapy Center and Orthotic Care Center. For more information, please visit or call 502.562.0310.


About the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center

Kleinert Kutz is one of the largest hand care programs in the world, pioneering achievements in hand and microsurgery, research, therapy and orthotics. The 13 physicians of Kleinert Kutz offer expertise in orthopedic and plastic surgery and provide comprehensive care for the hand and arm. Kleinert Kutz’s significant achievements include the nation’s first five hand transplants, one of the world’s first cross-hand replantations, pioneered work in primary reconstruction using free tissue transfer and national award for research in blood flow to the nerve.  For more information, please visit or call 502.561.4263.


About the University of Louisville
The University of Louisville is Kentucky's metropolitan research university, with 22,000 students attending classes at 11 colleges and schools on three campuses. Bordered by its many medical partners, UofL's downtown Health Sciences Center is home to more than 3,000 students pursuing degrees in health-related fields with the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Public Health and Information Sciences, as well as 14 interdisciplinary centers and institutes.




Editor’s Note: For broadcast quality b-roll detailing the history and success of the Louisville VCA program, please visit:













Publish date: 

Thursday, September 26, 2013