Hand Transplant Research Program

The Hand Transplant Research Program within the Mayo Clinic Transplant Research Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of physicians and scientists to develop treatment options that will provide the most benefit for patients requiring hand transplantation.

Research focus areas

The Hand Transplant Research Program focuses its research efforts on several critical issues that determine outcomes after transplant:

  • Identifying methods to select patients who will optimally benefit from hand transplant
  • Ensuring nerve recovery after hand transplant
  • Using regenerative medicine to develop reconstruction options that don't require immunosuppression

Here's a closer look at the focus areas in the Hand Transplant Research Program.

Patient selection

The Hand Transplant Research Program team is studying the psychosocial characteristics of patients who have the emotional, lifestyle and family support needed to be successful with hand transplantation. By examining these factors, researchers hope to help improve outcomes and quality of life for patients undergoing hand transplant.

Nerve recovery

In order for a hand transplant to be successful, nerve regeneration must take place. The nerves and muscle from the recipient must regrow into the transplanted hand to provide feeling and function.

The Hand Transplant Research Program is investigating the effects of different immunosuppressive medications on nerve regeneration. Because transplant recipients require lifelong immunosuppressive therapy after transplantation, researchers are working to identity which treatments support and accelerate nerve regeneration.

Regenerative medicine

Having a hand transplant, as with other forms of transplantation, requires that recipients take immunosuppressive medications after transplantation.

While these medications can help prevent rejection of the transplanted hand, they can also cause serious complications, such as infection or the development of malignancies.

Mayo Clinic hand transplant researchers are using regenerative medicine strategies to identify reconstruction options that don't require the use of immunosuppressive agents.

These efforts include:

  • Regenerating skin and tendons using spherically engineered bioscaffolds to accelerate wound healing. This technique involves using decellularization to remove cellular content from donor skin and muscle and then inserting a recipient's stem cells before reconstruction. By using the recipient's own stem cells to rebuild the donor skin and tissue, the need for immunosuppression medications after transplantation is reduced or eliminated.
  • Regenerating skin cells for reconstruction. Many patients who need hand reconstructive surgery do so because of burns. Investigators at Mayo Clinic are exploring ways to create new, regenerated skin for these patients using their own existing tissue. These regenerated skin cells would then be incorporated into a gel-like medication that would be applied to the burn wound. By using the patient's own tissue to create new skin cells for reconstruction, the need for hand transplant and the use of immunosuppressive medications could be eliminated.

Program faculty

Here's a list of faculty in the Hand Transplant Research Program by campus location.