Short of Breath: Increasing Available Lungs for Transplant

Chronic Lung Disease, Lung Transplantation
$13,531 raised
of $50,000 goal
Funding has ended

About the Researcher

Michael Mulligan, M.D.
UW Medicine
Professor, Department of Surgery

Read Michael's Story

Project Timeline:

In progress

6 Months - 1 year

What your donation will fund:

  • $10,000 raised:
    Lab supplies
  • $25,000 raised:
    Models in which to test therapy
  • $50,000 raised:
    Funding for 6 months to support research staff

Featured funders of this project include:

National Institutes of Health

Project donors:

  • Julie Radcliffe
  • Steve Jenkins
  • Derek and Rebekah Rogalsky
  • Elizabeth Hunter
  • ivy Smith
  • Herbert Hoffman
  • Richard Woodhall
  • Fishbaugher Family
  • Ellie Egles
  • Tom & BJ Jenkins
Show All
  • Gerald Cobb
  • Carol Jenkins
  • Ken Verdoia
  • Jamie & Luis Gamez
  • Rebecca Sturgis
  • Steve Jenkins
  • Michael Peskura
  • Colin Rines
  • Oli Rayner
  • Matt Luce
  • Anonymous
  • Jen Brookes
  • Anonymous
  • Sharlene Dunn
  • Terri Christenson
  • Elizabeth Hunter
  • Jan Landis
  • Nicholas Parisi
  • Adil Lalani
  • james clement
  • marlene/jim barber
  • Jean Crane
  • Lesli Stumph
  • Karen Eaton
  • Anonymous
  • The Gorton Family
  • Susan Arndt
  • starla sage
  • Sherrill Williamson
  • Stephen Padre
  • Anonymous
  • Patrice Rubadeau
  • Dianne Amundson
  • andy padre
  • Connie Radunzel
  • Dr. Michael & Kathlin Kennedy
  • Susan Parker
  • Barbara Padre
  • Anonymous
  • Julian Finkelstein
  • NW Industrial and Foundry Supply
  • Dayna Christison
  • Lee Ritter
  • Sebastian Tongson
  • Meg Pearson
  • Lee Ritter
  • Lee Ritter
  • Debra Benson
  • Lee Ritter
  • Kara Larson
  • Anonymous
  • overview
  • researcher
  • updates

Project abstract

Imagine that you have been waiting on a lung transplant list for several years. Finally, a donor pair of lungs the right size and appropriate blood type becomes available. However, your physician discovers these lungs have a mild bacterial infection and deems them unfit for transplant. You return to the waitlist, your chances of receiving a transplant growing ever slimmer. This scenario is all too common in the United States, where each year more than 3,500 people await a lung transplant. Most of them die waiting. Fortunately, a scientific breakthrough that harnesses the power of bacteria is likely to make lung transplantation a possibility for a much larger number of patients. 

Bacteria and reperfusion

The single greatest setback to lung transplantation is the shortage of healthy donor lungs. This problem is compounded by the perception that lungs colonized by bacteria are unsuitable for transplant because they worsen a condition known as lung ischemia reperfusion injury (LIRI). This condition is caused by blood leaving part of the body (ischemia), followed by the blood’s return to that part of the body (reperfusion). During transplants, organs are first removed from a blood supply, then reconnected to it, making LIRI a significant concern. 

While the underlying causes of this condition are incompletely understood, LIRI develops in 15-25 percent of lung transplant recipients. It is the leading cause of acute lung transplant recipient mortality and is associated with the development of airway complications, acute rejection and late graft failure. Researchers have always assumed that the presence of bacteria would exacerbate inflammation; therefore, increasing the likelihood a transplant patient would develop LIRI. To avoid this complication, hospitals typically discard all donor lungs with even a mild bacterial infection. 

Harnessing the power of bacteria 

Our new therapy is designed to use bacteria to create a protective effect for the donor lungs. We discovered that the biochemical receptor triggered in reperfusion can be "pre-fired" by exposure to bacteria prior to transplant surgery. The result is that the receptor becomes resistant to inflammatory activation during the surgical procedure, limiting the danger of reperfusion. Perfecting this technique will change the way we look at donor lungs, rendering bacteria-infected lungs suitable for transplant.

Why is this important?

Interventions designed to prevent LIRI are clinically relevant because LIRI’s onset is predictable and controllable. Unlike an accident victim or someone who presents with pneumonia, we can control the timing of organ procurement (i.e., the onset of ischemia), and we can pre-treat the donor. 
Our studies may allow us to use lungs that would otherwise have been discarded. More patients would get transplanted, potentially with better results. The use of bacterial products (or their analogs) in helping qualify a donated lung that might otherwise be classified as unusable has therapeutic implications. The proposed studies could also change the way we assess donor organs. Classically, the presence of bacteria in donor lungs has been viewed as a negative. However, low-level arterial colonization may actually be protective. 
In summary, the combination of the ability to pre-treat and use donated lungs that are currently being discarded may help us dramatically improve clinical lung transplantation practices.

Who will benefit from the results of this project?

Potentially all lung transplant recipients would benefit from the knowledge gained in the proposed studies. This includes patients with cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary hypertension, sarcoidosis and many other forms of advanced lung disease.

Michael Mulligan, M.D.

I don't want my patients to just survive — I want them to thrive. That's why I do what I do. 

My passion for helping patients overcome conditions affecting the lungs began long ago. After completing a post-doctoral research fellowship in the study of acute lung injury, I went on to publish more than 200 scientific articles on the topic. For the past 15 years, I have led a research lab dedicated to this field. As the director of the lung transplant program at UW Medicine, I perform 95 percent of the lung transplants in the Pacific Northwest and provide perioperative and surgical care for those patients. Since my arrival in 1999, UW Medicine’s annual lung transplant volumes have quadrupled, and patient survival outcomes have improved dramatically.

I also serve as the president-elect of the pulmonary council for the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation. Additionally, I am a member of the board of directors for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and serve as their regional councilor. My extensive clinical practice in lung transplantation and my research expertise make me uniquely qualified to conduct this research.

Michael Mulligan, M.D., the UW Medicine Distinguished Endowed Professor in Lung Transplant Research, has dedicated himself to helping patients in need of lung transplantation for the last 17 years. His efforts have been critically important to the growth and success of this program at University of Washington Medical Center. For nearly a decade, he performed virtually all of the organ procurement and lung transplant surgeries and guided all of the post-operative management. As a result, the program has experienced a 400-percent increase in annual transplant volume and dramatic improvements in survival. 
An example of his commitment: Dr. Mulligan flew out to retrieve organs on September 11, 2001. As the only civilian aircraft in the sky that night, his plane was intercepted by military jets and forced to land before it reached Seattle. However, he and his team persevered. They returned with a helicopter escort and successfully transplanted the organs. 
Dr. Mulligan searches constantly for ways to make transplants available to more patients and improve outcomes. His research efforts — which can be supported through Consano — are critically important to this charge.

Education & Training

Year Institution Degree Field
1996 University of Michigan Fellowship Thoracic Surgery
1995 University of Michigan Fellowship Heart and Lung Transplantation
1992 Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center Residency General Surgery
1992 University of Michigan Post-doc Fellowship Pathology
1990 Wayne State University Internship General Surgery
1989 University of Connecticut M.D. Medicine
1984 Tufts University B.A.

Awards & Leadership

Year Award/Position
2011 Chief, Thoracic Surgery Section, University of Washington
2010 Western Thoracic Surgical Association’s Doty Award
2009 Dr. Dwight C. McGoon Award (for Outstanding Resident Education)
2008 UWMC Service Excellence Award
2008 Professor of Surgery, University of Washington
2004 UNOS Thoracic Organ Allocation Committee
2000 John K. Stevenson Faculty Teacher of the Year, University of Washington, Department of Surgery
1999 Director, Lung Transplant Program, University of Washington
1995 Blakemore Surgical Research Award
1994 Resident Teacher of the Year
1984 Magna Cum Laude, Tufts University

Thank you for inspiring us

Jun 24, 2013

I am very pleased with the generosity that so many have given to support our research. It is very validating and inspires me to take our efforts to an even greater level. This is IMPORTANT work! Not only will it lead to better outcomes for those who receive a transplant, but it will increase the number and quality of available organs. We simply do not have enough organs to help all those in need. The recent events in Philadelphia involving the ten year old girl in need of transplantation call this vividly into focus. Our research findings suggest that many organs currently not regarded as "usable" are indeed appropriate for transplantation. The insights we have into inflammatory signaling will allow us to design interventions to "repair" donor lungs and make them suitable for life saving transplantation. The generosity of those who have given and the acute needs of those patients on lung transplant waiting lists inspire us. We know our research holds great promise for transformational change!

+ Read full update

Link to King5 story

May 03, 2013

Wanted to post the link to the story that KING5 just did on our work: http://www.king5.com/health/UW-researcher-using-crowd-funding-to-fund-researcher-205887231.html . It was great exposure for our research, and it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.  Thank you for all of the donations that have come in since the story aired!

+ Read full update

KING5 news is featuring Consano and this research

May 02, 2013



I am so pleased that our work will be featured on KING5 tonight in Seattle at 5 PM. Hope you can spare a few minutes to watch the story!


+ Read full update