SIU Med School Pediatrician to Study Biology of Kidney Transplants


portrait of Michael Seifert

July 18, 2012

SIU Med School Pediatrician to Study Biology of Kidney Transplants

A Southern Illinois University School of Medicine pediatrician will research the leading cause of long-term failure of kidney transplants in children through a collaborative program between SIU and Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Michael Seifert, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU, will continue his research into allograft injury as part of his appointment as a clinical research scholar, through the Institute of Clinical and Translational KL2 Career Development Awards Program at Washington University. The appointment began July 1.

Kidney transplants in children are not curative, and five-year survival rates are between 75-85 percent. Acute rejection rates have improved dramatically in the last 20 years, but long-term allograft survival rates have not. One cause for rejection may be chronic allograft injury, a progressive disease characterized by graft fibrosis and variable declines in kidney function, leading to recurrent end-stage kidney disease and a return to dialysis. Chronic allograft injury is a complex disease with multiple contributing factors, including medications, viral infections and chronic alloimmune injury.

Because it often leads to recurrent end-stage kidney disease, chronic allograft injury is a major public health risk, affecting nearly 100 percent of kidney transplant recipients within 10 years. Symptoms can include high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. Often the disease is silent for many years and may only be detectable with a transplant biopsy.

Current methods to assess allograft function are costly and invasive. Non-invasive screening tests are not as optimal to detect declines. There is a scarcity of effective treatments. Existing treatments only slow progression of kidney decline.

Seifert’s cross-sectional study aims to identify a vascular connection to chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD) and chronic allograft injury. CKD-MBD may be a cause of vascular damage that can ultimately lead to chronic allograft injury.

He is investigating the function of endothelial progenitor cells, which are rare cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels. If their function is altered after transplantation because of the CKD-MBD, these same cells may contribute to the destruction of blood vessels (vasculopathy), a component of chronic allograft injury. The results of the study could lead to improved diagnostic methods and treatments.

Seifert specializes in pediatric nephrology and is one of the pediatric specialists recruited for St. John’s Children’s Hospital, a joint endeavor of SIU and St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. He joined SIU in 2010. He also holds an adjunct faculty appointment in pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“Dr. Seifert has a unique background in endothelial biology and pediatric transplantation, allowing him to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical application,” said Sandra Pucyznski, Ph.D., director of clinical and translational research at SIU School of Medicine.

The collaboration between Washington University and SIU School of Medicine through the KL2 Award will allow Seifert access to additional resources necessary to proceed with this study. Pediatric renal transplant recipients at WU, including some referred from SIU by Seifert, will be able to enroll in the clinical study.

Seifert’s appointment builds on a collaborative effort with Washington University for clinical services with SIU cardiologists and pediatric gastroenterologists. His appointment marks the first expansion of the collaboration to include research, in an effort to help SIU School of Medicine clinical faculty gain formal training in clinical research. The appointment is supported by Washington University’s Clinical Research Training Center.

Seifert completed a three-year clinical fellowship in nephrology at Children’s Hospital Boston (2010) and conducted research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He completed a fellowship at Harvard Medical School in Boston (2010). Seifert completed his pediatric residency at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford (2007) and earned his medical degree at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington (2004). He is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric nephrology.

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The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to assist the citizens of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health-care needs through education, patient care, research and service to the community.


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