The medicine behind organ transplantation

The Project

Chronic kidney disease is an increasing health problem characterized by the progressive loss of nephrons that finally leads to end-stage kidney disease. Kidney transplantation is the best therapeutic option as it restores all kidney physiological functions. Organ transplantation in humans started in the last century and is currently a routine clinical procedure. Barcelona has international leadership in kidney transplantation with most Catalan patients with kidney failure living with a functioning kidney allograft.

Kidney transplantation relies on organ donation, which is based on high social values such as solidarity, generosity, empathy, transparence and confidence, and all the process requires the collaboration of surgeons, physicians, immunologists, pathologists and nurses. There have been major advances to overcome surgical, functional and immunological hurdles that account for excellent short-term results but improvement of long-term graft function and patency remains as a challenge. Indeed, many studies identify some silent immunological and non-immunological injures that harm the kidney and jeopardize its future. However, little is known about the own mechanisms the kidney uses to compensate these damages and the potential regenerative processes behind. What can be done to prolong kidney graft survival? It is just a matter of minimize injury? Do kidney progenitor cells play a role in the reparative process? Can we modulate the balance between the immune system fighting for destroying the kidney transplant and the inherent capacity of the kidney to survive by its own reparative progenitor cells?

In this project you will have a unique experience facing current challenges and opportunities in kidney transplantation. Transplant science is a success model of translational medicine gathering basic and clinical researchers seeking a common objective. In a very practical way you will be first provided with the clues of transplant success by a team of experts. You will know about all critical steps in the transplant process, from organ procurement and robotic surgery to modern immunosuppression. Then, you will be introduced in the new concepts and methodologies we are working in our laboratory. You will see new tools for monitoring the immune response and perform some experiments with renal progenitor cells. By this background you will have some hints to generate your own hypothesis to be tested in future studies.

During this project you will feel as a truly and passionate transplant scientist seeking the way to avoid long-term transplant failure.

Do you accept the challenge?

Matching profiles

Health sciences, biomedicine, biology, chemistry

Learning objectives
  • To understand the consequences of chronic kidney failure and why a kidney transplantation is the best option.
  • To know about the importance of kidney donation and major surgical advances in kidney transplantation.
  • To learn on the mechanism of rejection, management of immunosuppression and kidney regeneration.
Required materials


Coordinator of the project

Josep Maria Cruzado

  • Chief of the Department of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation at Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge and Associate Professor of Medicine at University of Barcelona.
  • President of the Catalan Society of Nephrology and Associate Editor in the American Journal of Transplantation and Clinical Kidney Journal.
  • Awarded the Fundación Renal Ínigo Álvarez de Toledo Prize for Clinical Investigation in 2013 and 2017.
  • Research interests focus on renal transplantation, kidney regeneration and diabetic kidney disease.

Francesc Vigués

  • Chief of the Department of Urology at the Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge and Associate Professor of Urology at University of Barcelona.
  • Head of the surgical Kidney transplant program at the Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge since 2016.
  • Work focused in the surgical aspects of transplantation, especially in the minimally invasive surgery field.
  • Initialization in the laparoscopic nephrectomy for the live donor transplantation at the Bellvitge Hospital and, recently, the robot kidney transplantation program.
  • Member of the European Association of Urology (EAU) Robotic Urology Section (ERUS) and the Robotic Assisted Kidney Transplantation Group.
Associated researchers

Eva Oliver

  • Chief of the Transplant Coordination Unit at Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge and Associate Professor at Universitat of Barcelona.
  • Long teaching experience in the field of donation and transplantation.
  • Member of the advisory committee on donation and transplantation of organs and tissues of the Catalan Tranplant Organization (OCATT).

Núria Lloberas

  • Researcher in the Nephrology and Renal Transplantation group at IDIBELL.
  • Broad background in pharmacology, with specific training and expertise in pharmacokinetics, pharmacogenomics and population pharmacokinetics studies to optimize the administration of immunosuppression in kidney transplant recipients.

Anna Solà

  • Associated Researcher in the Nephrology and Renal Transplantation Group (IDIBELL-Hospital de Bellvitge).
  • Co-foundator of a biotechnological spin-off, focused on cell therapy in regenerative medicine obtaining in 2017 the approval of the AEM for the Phase II Clinical Trial of the company's first product.
  • Different international and national collaborations and actively participate in the European Commission in evaluations associated with the Marie Curie system since 2011.

Oriol Bestard

  • Head of the Kidney transplant program at Bellvitge University Hospital, Associate Professor at Barcelona University and member of the council of the European Society of Organ Transplantation.
  • Research mainly focusing in the investigation of mechanisms of allograft rejection and opportunistic viral infections as well as in the development of novel non-invasive immune tools/biomarkers for immunosuppression individualization.
  • Professional of Excellence award by the Association Board of Physicians of Barcelona.
  • Associate editor of Transplantation journal and Frontiers Medicine.
The center

Bellivitge Hospital University (HUB) was opened in 1972 and is located in the city of Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona) and belongs to the Catalan Health Institute (ICS). The HUB is one of the only five hospitals in all Catalonia certified as third level center, allowing to treat high level complexity cases, and is of reference to more than 2 million of people.