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Oxford Transplant Centre, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7LE

Research groups

Rutger J. Ploeg

Professor of Transplant Biology and Head of Strategy

  • Director Clinical & Translational Research
  • Honorary Consultant Transplant Surgeon

I was born in The Hague in The Netherlands and educated at the University of Leiden. During my medical education I followed electives in Indonesia, Toronto and Cambridge. I was trained as a surgeon at Leiden University Medical Centre. During my research fellowship in Madison at the University of Wisconsin with Dr. F.O. Belzer in 1986-1988 I became interested in organ donation, ischaemia & reperfusion injury and preservation in transplantation. I was involved in the experimental studies and clinical introduction of the UW solution and received my PhD cum laude at the University of Leiden in 1991.

After my clinical ASTS fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics from 1991-1993, I was appointed Consultant Surgeon at the University Medical Centre Groningen in The Netherlands and became Professor of Surgery in 2001. In 2002 I was appointed Head of the Divisions of Abdominal Surgery and Transplant Surgery & Organ Donation in Groningen. My professional activities include a broad array of responsibilities both nationally and internationally, such as Board Memberships of Eurotransplant, the Dutch Transplantation Foundation, Associate Editorship for the American Journal of Transplantation and Advisorship to NHSBT in the UK. I also served the European Society for Organ Transplantation as Secretary and was elected President of ESOT in 2009.

In June 2011 I was appointed as Chair in Transplant Biology and Director of Clinical & Translational Research in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences at the University of Oxford. Apart form my research activities I am a Consultant Transplant Surgeon in the Oxford Transplant Centre. I am currently focusing on the establishment of two consortia: the Consortium on Organ Preservation In Europe (COPE) and on the Consortium on Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD?) in the UK.

My Research

Organ transplantation saves the lives of thousands of patients every year and is now recognised as the treatment of choice for end stage organ failure. Despite the increasing awareness of the importance of organ transplantation both amongst the medical community and the general public, a gulf remains between the supply and clinical need for life saving organs. This is predicted to worsen over the course of the next decade, making this disparity the most important challenge facing the transplant community today. In an attempt to address this issue, the transplantation community has been turning to living donor organ transplantation and to organs previously considered unsuitable for donation.

Deceased donors have a physiologically abnormal state resulting in significant organ damage even prior to retrieval. This correlates with higher rates of primary non-function following transplantation and poorer short and long-term outcomes when compared to optimal living donors. Exposure to warm ischaemia, a heightened pro-inflammatory and pro-coagulatory state, increased immunogenicity and ischaemia reperfusion injury are central mechanisms resulting in organ injury and eventually will lead to chronic transplant dysfunction. By addressing these injury mechanisms in donor and recipient, through understanding the pathways of injury and applying therapeutics and new biomedical technologies we attempt to prevent organ injury, improving allograft function and short and long-term organ survival. By increasing organ quality including ex vivo preservation and resuscitation as well as by conditioning the recipient we also aim to make previously unusable organs transplantable. In addition, if we can identify markers to predict outcome of transplantation, this would help transplant teams in deciding the suitability of specific organs for individual patients and better guide post-operative management.

Key Aims: 

  • To increase the number and quality of retrieved organs for transplantation by optimising donor management and resuscitating and preserving marginal organs. 
  • To make previously unusable organs transplantable and increase the “donor pool”. 
  • To identify pathways of injury and apply targeted interventions to repair donor organ injury. 
  • To translate validated experimental methods and technologies into clinical use and best practice protocols. 
  • To identify bio-markers and functional parameters that predict outcome following transplantation. 
  • To attract other groups and attempt to find new innovative ways of resuscitation and regeneration. 
  • To streamline collaboration and dissemination between scientific and clinical experts in academic institutions across the United Kingdom and Europe.