Dr. Gabriel Loor, a cardiac surgeon whose research focuses on maximizing donor organs for lung transplant recipients, has joined Baylor College of Medicine as director of lung transplantation in the division of cardiothoracic transplantation and circulatory support in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. He will conduct surgeries at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, part of CHI St. Luke’s Health.
“I am extremely excited to join the heart and lung transplantation team at Baylor College of Medicine and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center,” Loor said. “I’ve been very attracted to the developments in Houston, and I’ve been impressed by the way everybody approaches patient care, research and everyday life. There is a high level of excellence, and the incredible collaboration between Baylor, Catholic Health Initiatives and Texas Heart Institute is sure to enhance advanced heart and lung care in the region and the world.”
Loor is the national principal investigator on several trials using ex vivo lung perfusion, or the process of preparing donor lungs outside of the body for transplantation. Because of a renewed interest in understanding ways to optimize donor organs, including the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys, technological innovations have enabled physicians to house donor lungs in a sterile chamber outside of the body for 12 to 24 hours. Loor is credited with the first of this type of “breathing lung” transplantation in the Midwest in 2014.
The portable device, the TransMedics Organ Care System, which houses the lungs, originally was developed in Boston. It has a miniaturized ventilator system and pulsatile pump that delivers blood flow through the organ. A Bluetooth monitor allows for regular readouts of how the organ is performing. The System is in the final stages of the FDA review process following the completion of two international clinical trials.
“In the past, all we’ve been able to do is cool the lungs down, put them on ice and transport them, and we have a certain amount of time to do that. But with this device, we’ve been able to have them outside the body for up to 12 hours or longer. That amount of time lets us understand how good the quality of the lung is, deal with logistics and ensure we can get the transplant in and allows the team to operate when they are well rested,” Loor said. “It also gives us time to consider other types of treatment we can use to improve the quality of the organ.”
The landmark international trial of this device, the INSPIRE trial, found that in those lungs where this device was used, there was a 50 percent reduction in graft dysfunction, a lung injury that is common after lung transplantation. Patients who received these transplants also were off the ventilator and out of the hospital sooner.
The next phase in this research, the EXPAND trial, currently is looking at why surgeons are only able to use 20 percent of the lungs that are offered for transplantation and exploring use of this technology to utilize more donor lungs. Loor serves as the international principal investigator for this study and is credited with the first EXPAND lung transplant in the world. This work allows surgeons to offer high quality transplantation to patients suffering from diseases such as pulmonary hypertension, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis or any end stage lung disease before they become too sick for transplant.
As co-chief of adult cardiac surgery at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, Loor will work closely with Drs. Joseph Coselli, Joseph Lamelas and Todd Rosengart to expand surgical quality initiatives. Loor’s expertise in adult cardiac surgery includes coronary revascularization, complex re-operative surgery, valvular repair and replacement and endovascular surgery. Loor also has done work to address the issues of blood conservation and bloodless surgery and has published numerous articles on this topic.
“Dr. Loor represents the first-class, cutting edge academic surgeon that we are so thrilled to have been able to recruit to the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. I have no doubt that he will make highly impactful contributions clinically and by innovation,” said Dr. Todd Rosengart, chair and professor of surgery at Baylor who also holds the DeBakey-Bard Chair in Surgery.
Loor is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. Loor is fluent in Spanish.
He will see patients at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center Heart and Lung Clinic, 6770 Bertner Ave., suite C350. For transplant related appointments, call (832) 355-9304. For general adult cardiac appointments, call (832) 355-3000.