|Christian P. Larsen, MD, DPhil, the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Professor of Surgery in Emory University School of Medicine and founding director of the Emory Transplant Center, was awarded the 2007 Thomas E. Starzl Prize in Surgery and Immunology on Saturday, April 21, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
At the awards ceremony, Dr. Larsen also presented a lecture on "Costimulation Blockade, Chimerism, and Tolerance," encapsulating the current focus of his research: achieving true immunological tolerance for organ and tissue transplants through mixed hematopoietic chimerism. This research is exploring how bone marrow hematopoietic stem cells from an organ donor might be induced in an organ recipient to coexist with the recipient's own bone marrow stem cells. This mixed group of cells could then preserve immune system function while promoting immune tolerance of the transplant. Dr. Larsen received his MD at Emory in 1984 and his Doctor of Philosophy in transplantation immunology from the University of Oxford in 1990. He completed his general and transplantation surgery training at Stanford University and Emory School of Medicine in 1991, then joined the Department of Surgery at Emory and initiated the Transplantation Immunology Laboratory. He was appointed chief of the Division of Transplantation in 1999 and director of the Emory Transplant Center in 2000. Dr. Larsen has made seminal contributions to the investigation of the immunologic mechanisms of transplant rejection and immunologic tolerance. He was the first researcher to demonstrate the migration of dendritic cells from a transplanted organ to the draining lymph node or spleen, where the cells initiate the immune response that can cause allograft rejection.
In 1996, he published an article in Nature that provided unequivocal evidence that blocking one of the immune signals required for organ rejection (co-stimulatory blockade) at the time of transplantation promotes long-term survival of organ allografts in rodents. This finding was rapidly translated by Dr. Larsen's research group to primates at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and later to humans and is currently in late stage trials for solid organ transplant recipients. Dr. Larsen is an elected member of the Society of University Surgeons and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. His honors include the 1997 Basic Science Award from the American Society of Transplant Physicians, the American Society of Transplantation's 2001 Roche Award and the Transplantation Society's 2006 Roche Award for Excellence in Translational Research. The annual Thomas E. Starzl Prize in Surgery and Immunology is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Department of Surgery and the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute. The award and lectureship were established in 1996 to honor the career of Dr. Starzl, whose contributions to organ transplantation and immunology are recognized around the globe.