Limb transplant gel: saving hands, feet and faces

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When a person loses an arm or a leg and prepares for a transplant, rejection is always a concern. Patients must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to fight rejection. But the drugs can wreak havoc on the rest of the body. Now, scientists have developed a new way to deliver the drugs to protect against rejection, changing lives in the process.

Painting and drawing for Richard Mangino is truly a gift. Each stroke created without his hands.

Mangino told ABC30, "When you have no hands, even though I felt like I could do what everybody else could do, people look at you like, well he's got no hands."

But the quadruple amputee didn't let that stop him. He still painting with a hook and four years ago Mangino became the first successful double hand transplant patient.

"There are over 7 billion people on the planet, and they're not giving out hands everywhere. I was going to get them," he said.

Giving him back his love for playing piano and Mangino can now easily mow his lawn, and take a drive.

But like other transplant patients, Mangino must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his life. Drugs, Associate Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston Jeff Karp, PhD, says can damage the liver and kidneys.

Now, researchers have developed a new hydrogel technology that can deliver immune suppressant drugs locally to minimize toxic effects.

Karp told ABC30, "And we engineered it in such a way that it would only release the drugs in the presence of inflammation."

Karp says the new gel could potentially be injected just twice a year, rather than patients having to take daily pills.

Mangino exclaimed, "That's huge to people because we all just want to be like everybody else."

In a study in rats, researchers found the drug infused gel to be three times as effective as injecting the drug alone. Karp believes human trials could be three to five years away. To see more of Mangino's art and poetry, log onto

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Haley Bridger
Media Relations Specialist

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