Since receiving a generous donation of $20,000 from the Rachel Doherty Foundation last November, Associate Professor Ritchie and his colleagues at Peter Mac have furthered their understanding of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), when the immune system within donor tissue attempts to reject the recipient’s tissue.
‘GVHD is a debilitating condition that can arise during the recovery phase of a life-saving bone marrow transplant in patients with blood cancers. We now know that the powerful perforin protein has a critical role in the onset of GVHD.
‘While perforin is crucial to help the body effectively fight off many viruses, it can also mark the wrong cells for elimination, including those of normal tissues that the immune system attempts to reject following a transplant.’
Associate Professor Ritchie says the donated funds have allowed postdoctoral researcher Dr Joanne Davis to explore the role of perforin in transplantation in great detail, in an effort to understand which cells are responsible for delivering activated perforin after a transplant.
‘If we can block perforin’s activity in transplanted tissue, we hope to make bone marrow transplants safer and more widely applicable option for patients with blood cancers such as lymphoma.
‘A perforin “inhibitor” would enable patients to be matched with more varied donors.’
Associate Professor Ritchie says the $20,000 donation from the Rachel Doherty Foundation has enabled his team to continue their research including providing the crucial technical support for these detailed experiments.
‘The generosity of donors is crucial to advancing his research; when working in the laboratory, it is a great motivation to know that beyond the walls of Peter Mac we have fantastic supporters, willing us on.’