UA Surgeon Works to Revolutionize Organ Transplantation

Dr. Zain Khalpey’s organ transplant research focuses on three key areas: bridge to regeneration, organ reconditioning and organogenesis, or the creation of new organs.

Dr. Zain Khalpey

Dr. Zain Khalpey

What if you could take a damaged lung from a deceased patient, clean it up and refurbish it for someone in need of a transplant? Or what if you could print someone a brand new human lung using a 3-D bioprinter?

These are among the ambitious goals of Dr. Zain Khalpey, a University of Arizona cardiothoracic surgeon who wants to revolutionize organ transplantation.

Every day, an estimated 79 people in the United States receive organ transplants, but an average of 18 people die waiting for transplants because of a shortage of donated organs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At the same time, many donor organs are routinely discarded because they are deemed unsuitable for transplant.

Khalpey, who joined the UA department of surgery this spring as an associate professor and director of clinical and translational research, hopes to change that situation. He envisions a medical landscape in which fewer organ transplants are needed in the first place, and in which organs typically disposed of as medical waste can be revitalized to help save lives.

“My love has always been in transplantation because I want to make a difference, specifically in children,” Khalpey said. “I kept on seeing kids have multiple operations without resolution of the key problem resulting in a morbidly poor quality of life, so I decided to come to the U.S. to do research on transplantation.”

Born in Africa, Khalpey completed his medical education in the UK and studied and worked extensively throughout Europe and the United States before deciding to pursue his organ transplantation research at the UA, the birthplace of the Total Artificial Heart.

“I think there’s a rich history here, and I’m just building on the shoulders of what’s already been achieved but also adding a translational angle to innovative surgical research,” he said. “If I were to stand on the podium in 10 years, I’d want to be known as a translational surgeon bringing novel metabolic and cellular bench-side therapies to the clinical bedside for my transplant patients.”

Read more of this story by By Alexis Blue, University Communications  |    University of Arizona

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