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Caroline Lamarche, MD

Supervisor: Dr. Megan Levings
Award: KRESCENT Fellowship
Institution: BC Children’s Hospital/University of British Columbia
Year: 2017-2020

Dr. Lamarche will complete her post-doctoral fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Megan Levings at BC Children’s Hospital/University of British Columbia, where she will work on methods to tailor antigen-specific regulatory T cells for their use in transplantation.

Transplantation is the best and sometimes only treatment for end-stage organ failure. In the last ten years the lives of more than 20,000 Canadians have been improved, extended, or saved by donated organs. Immunosuppressive drugs make transplantation possible, but since these drugs suppress the entire immune system and not just the cells reactive to the transplanted organ they come at the price of an increase in infection and cancer risk. The drugs are also not perfect; many organs are still lost to rejection.

Our goal is to improve transplantation success by finding ways to re-educate the recipient's immune system to tolerate the transplanted organ. Our strategy is to harness the natural immunosuppressive properties of a type of white blood cell called T regulatory cells (Tregs). Tregs naturally regulate immune responses by ensuring the immune system attacks infectious or harmful substances without over-reacting to self or non-harmful foreign proteins. In the last 10 years research has shown that Tregs could be used as a cell-based therapy to induce immune tolerance and prevent organ rejection. The efficacy of Treg cell therapies can be significantly enhanced if the cellular product is enriched for Tregs that recognize a target specific to the transplanted organ. Dr. Levings's lab developed a method to improve the potency of Tregs by engineering them to express an activator protein when they are in the presence of a transplant. Dr. Lamarche’s goal is to study the potential of those engineered Tregs to control allograft rejection and lower the chances that transplant recipients will reject the donor organ.