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Gender-specific reactions to donor hearts discovered

(Vienna, 24 Nov. 2010) At the annual meeting of the Austrian Society of Transplantation, Transfusion and Genetics, Dr. Arezu Zejnab Aliabadi from the Department of Surgery at MedUni Vienna was distinguished with the Young Investigator Award for her study on the topic “Gender effect in heart transplants”.

Every year the conference of the Austrian Society of Transplantation, Transfusion and Genetics is held under the title “Austrotransplant”; it is a platform where a large number of national and international scientific working groups present their latest research findings related to the topic of transplantation and experts from at home and abroad lecture about the latest knowledge from the major areas of transplantation medicine.

At this year’s event, Dr. Arezu Zejnab Aliabadi was distinguished with the Young Investigator Award for her work on the subject “Gender effect in heart transplants”. In this study Aliabadi was able to show the effects on both genders in terms of rejection and survival rates when implanting women’s or men’s hearts. This impact has not been precisely clarified to date – partly due to the lack of sufficient data – but Aliabadi has now been the first to present significant findings.

The background are previously not completely clarified acute and long-term differences in the transplantation of a donor heart of the same gender (match) or, for example, a man’s heart in a female patient and vice versa (mismatch). Here Aliabadi studied both the effects on the survival period and rejections of patients. The results of her work are as follows:

1) Women and gender-mismatch patients demonstrate significantly higher rejection rates.

2) Men run a significantly higher risk of chronic rejection (graft vasculopathy or CAV). Mismatch patients tend to have a higher risk.

3) The gender or mismatch has no effect on survival after the transplantation however.

4) Men bear a significantly higher risk of dying of CAV (independent of the donor organ).

5) Women with a male heart die significantly more frequently of later rejection whereas men with a female heart die significantly more frequently of infections.

These findings now give rise to new questions, which Aliabadi will also explore in her future research work. Thus, for example, there seems to be a negative immunological effect due to gender mismatch, and so far unknown protective mechanisms could be the reason for women having a higher risk of rejections but a lower risk of CAV. Thanks to the study of Arezu Aliabadi targeted research into these new questions is now possible, which can help increase the success rate of heart transplants in the future.


Short biography:
Born in 1979 Dr. Arezu Zejnab Aliabadi became a Doctor of General Medicine in 2003. From 2004 to 2006 she worked as a transplant coordinator at the Division of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery at the AKH University Clinical Centre and was active in postoperative care of HTx patients, assisted in various cardio-thoracic surgeries and conducted endomyocardial biopsies. Between 2006 and 2008 she carried out clinical trials within the framework of the HTx programme at the Division of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, and since then she has been attending the specialist programme in cardio-thoracic surgery here.
In 2007 Aliabadi was the first person worldwide to qualify as an OCS (Organ Care System) specialist and has since been responsible for the operation, support and functioning of the OCS in her capacity as a member of the Vienna OCS team.
Aliabadi has cooperated in as many as eight international multicentre studies as a co-investigator, held many lectures at national and international conferences and published various original works in international medical journals.
In 2004 she received the Young Investigator Award for the first time and in 2008 she was distinguished with the Poster Award of the Middle East Society for Organ Transplantation. Aliabadi is a member of the Austrian Working Group for Heart Transplantation Support (responsible for interactions of immunosuppression), of the Austrian Society of Transplantation, Transfusion and Genetics, and of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation.