June 15, 2009 – Faculty Highlight of Jeffrey Platt, MDPosted on June 15th, 2009 No comments
Dr. Jeffrey Platt, a physician and scientist of international renown, joined the U-M Department of Surgery as a Professor of Surgery and Microbiology and Immunology in 2008. He has launched a new research program called Transplantation Biology aimed at making important discoveries for surgery and biomedical science and training a new generation of surgeon-scientists.
Dr. Platt received his medical training at the University of Southern California and at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and fellowship training at the University of Minnesota. He has held professorships at the Mayo Clinic and at Duke University and has published more than 500 papers and five books. He has received many coveted honors, including the Clinician Scientist and Established Investigator awards from the American Heart Association, a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health and election to the Association of American Physicians and Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
He is best known for investigating new ways to replace failing organs. Twenty years ago, he first proposed that animals could be genetically engineered so their organs would be more useful for transplantation into people, also known as xenotransplantation. He also proposed that human stem cells might be used to generate biocompatible human tissues and organs in animals for eventual transplantation back into people. These “reverse xenotransplants” might solve a number of difficult problems besides organ failure. He recently reported that human immune cells generated in animals can be immunized to attack a virus and might be used to attack a cancer when returned to the person who provided the stem cells.
Dr. Platt’s research into transplant rejection has yielded unanticipated insights into the problems of sepsis and the systemic inflammatory response syndrome that cause more admissions to intensive care units and death than any problems other than coronary heart disease yet they have defied every new therapy. He discovered that substances released from damaged tissues stimulate inflammatory cells through the receptor system known to trigger the vexing conditions. This insight led to new therapeutic avenues for interrupting systemic inflammation and shock. It also provided molecular clues to explain how inflammation connects with diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, and other chronic conditions.
Another new line of Dr Platt’s research concerns rebuilding the immune system by focusing on the challenge posed by immunodeficiency as it occurs in aging, cancer, AIDS, or in patients who are treated with drugs to prevent rejection or control cancer. Recently, Dr. Platt’s research revealed what may be “super receptors” that can provide a potent defense against infections. Although still at the experimental stage, knowledge about these “super receptors” might one day be used to change the face of oncologic and transplantation surgery, clinical immunology, and the medicine of aging.