Follistatin has the potential to decrease damage to organs during organ transplantation

Lead researcher

Prof David de Kretser

Main finding

The results provide a new approach to minimise the damage to an organ during transplantation caused by the need to take the transplant off the blood supply of the donor and reconnect it to the blood supply of the recipient. Our data shows that reperfusion of the organ when connected to the recipient, causes the release of proteins, activin A and activin B which stimulate an inflammatory reaction which can damage the subsequent function of the organ. Our data established that adding follistatin to the preservation solution can significantly decrease the damage to the transplant because follistatin binds the activins and decreases the inflammatory reaction.


Centre for Reproductive Health

Research group

Biology of the activins and follistatin


Dr Doreen Fang, Dr BoLu, Ms Susan Hayward, Prof David de Kretser, Dr Peter Cowan, Prof Karen Dwyer

Journal and article title

Most surprising

The first surprise was that the activins and follistatin were isolated initially for their role as proteins that are involved in the control of both male and female reproduction. We could never have predicted their role in inflammation and the resultant scarring , also called fibrosis. They are unique proteins since the amino acids which form these proteins are virtually identical from the mouse to the human, a degree of evolutionary conservation that is extraordinary. So, despite my training as a specialist in reproductive disorders, I now find I am working in the field of inflammation and tissue repair.

Future implications

Given the capacity of follistatin to diminish inflammation and scarring, there are multiple applications affecting virtually every organ in the body. Consequently we have taken out patents on these discoveries and have formed a company called Paranta Biosciences which, following capital raising, has proceed to produce follistatin in large amounts which enabled testing of this protein in animals to determine if there were any side-effects. These studies showed that there were no adverse effects and subsequent first in human studies have also shown no adverse effects. The company plans to proceed with the necessary paperwork to initially treat patients with cystic fibrosis, a disease in which patients can die in their late 30s, often having already had a lung transplant since damage to the organ from recurrent infections in these patients severely affects lung function.
We predict that follistatin will be of value in managing disorders of many organs resulting from agents causing inflammation be it in internal organs as well as scarring of the skin.

Disease/health impact

The results of our studies have the potential to improve the process of organ transplantation