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Sanjay Kulkarni

Associate Professor of Surgery (Transplant) and of Medicine (Nephrology); Medical Director, Center for Living Organ Donors; Scientific Director, Yale Transplant Research Unit; Surgical Director, Kidney Transplant Program; UNOS Primary Living Donor Surgeon

Research Summary

Increasing living donation in a safe and effective manner is the only solution to the organ shortage. My research examines how kidney donors assess risk and how this information can be better used by transplant centers when they evaluate possible living donors. Carrie Thieseen MD PhD (Yale) and I are currently conducting a multicenter study and are in the analysis phase of this project, which is funded by the Greenwall Foundation.

I am also conducting a clinical study that tests an FDA approved system Airseal (Surgiquest, Inc.) to determine if we can reduce pain from the kidney donor surgery. There is a known association between intra-abdominal hypertension and kidney dysfunction, thus, successfully performing donor nephrectomies at low-pressure may benefit both donors and recipients, as well as, providing important mechanistic insights into the mechanisms of intra-abdominal hypertension induced kidney injury.

Unfortunately, kidneys don't last forever. There are new medications that may help some kidney transplant patients keep their kidney longer. We are conducting a clinical study using a complement inhibitor, eculizumab, to determine if we can stop antibodies from injuring kidneys. The study was recently completed and the results are available at the American Journal of Transplantation website under early view publications and at

Specialized Terms: The role of complement inhibition in kidney and liver transplantation; Methods to decrease pain for living kidney donors; UNOS & CMS regulations and compliance; Living donor risks and perceptions.

Extensive Research Description

I am interested in the role of complement inhibition in both kidney and liver transplantation. We are conducting an industry-sponsored study to assess if complement inbhibition with eculizumab can reduce antibody-mediated injury seen in kidney patients with donor-specific antibodies. I work with Jordan Pober MD PhD (Yale Immunobiology) on this study to assess what affect complement inhibition will have on graft endothelial cells. Given that donor specific antibodies may increase markers of endothelial cell activation, we are testing if complement inhibition will reduce activation and thus preserve graft function.

Living donation is a principal interest of mine, both clincally and academically. Previous work on living donor consenting practices and the need for better structured alibi's for donor has lead to a greater question on how transplant centers evaluate and approve living donors. We examine if a greater participation of donor's wishes should translate into a rebalancing of donor autonomy and maleficence.

1. Inhibition of Complement in Chronic Allograft Injury & its affect on Circulating Endothelial Cells.

2. Randomized Controlled Trial of Reducing Operative & Post-Operative Morbidity in Living Kidney Donors Utilizing Low Pressure, Limited Variability Pneumoperitoneum.

3. Burden of Illness in Highly Sensitized ESRD Patients & Patients Who Experience Acute Antibody-Mediated Rejection.

4. Balancing non-maleficence and autonomy in living kidney donors.


Research Interests

Delivery of Health Care; Kidney; Kidney Failure, Chronic; Liver; Nephrology; Risk; Transplantation; Living Donors

Public Health Interests

Behavioral Health; Health Care Management; Mental Health; Health Equity, Disparities, Social Determinants and Justice; Health Systems Reform

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Selected Publications