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Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics Group: the science underpinning successful transplantation

Solid organ and haematopoietic progenitor cell (bone marrow) transplantation has saved or transformed thousands of lives over the past 50 years. Developing an understanding of the complex genetic systems and immunological responses involved in ensuring safe and successful transplantation has been crucial. Healthcare scientists specialising in histocompatibility and immunogenetics (H&I) perform laboratory investigations and provide clinical advice on the compatibility and risk of proceeding to transplant with a particular donor and recipient.

The British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (BSHI) is the professional body for H&I scientists within the UK and was formed in 1989. With over 450 members, there are BSHI members in all clinical H&I laboratories within the UK and Ireland and many European laboratories. Consultant clinical scientists in H&I or consultant immunologists direct the laboratories within the UK. BSHI has a number of groups which focus upon the specific aims of the Society such as an Education Board, a Professional Advisory Group, a Training and Development Executive and a number of Special Interest Groups. We also have a Research Executive, which, as well as acting as the academic arm of BSHI, is the H&I Affinity Group of the British Society for Immunology.

The H&I Affinity Group works closely with the other BSHI committees and has a number of direct responsibilities. These include the development of the scientific programme for the annual BSHI conference, which is now in its 27th year, and is one of the main events in the BSHI calendar. This year we are fortunate to hold our meeting at Keble College, University of Oxford on 13–14 September 2016.

Our group also coordinates the peer review of abstracts submitted for presentation at the conference and reviews applications for BSHI bursaries and awards. We are also involved in the continual professional development scheme, which is run by BSHI, and we publish reviews and articles of interest in our Society’s quarterly newsletter (now up to its 103rd edition!). BSHI is affiliated to the International Journal of Immunogenetics, which publishes peer-reviewed research papers and our affinity group has been involved in the commissioning of review articles for publication in this journal.

Our team has organised joint sessions at congresses organised by other associated societies. At the last British Society for Immunology Congress in Brighton 2014, we held the session ‘Generation, properties and clinical relevance of antibodies in autoimmune disease and allo-transplantation’, which was a joint proposal between the H&I Affinity Group and Professor Robert Barker, University of Aberdeen. This proved to be a morning filled with interesting talks from great speakers and we were not only pleased with the high number of attendees, but also with the joint collaboration between BSHI and the British Society for Immunology.

The field of H&I is scientifically interesting and rapidly developing as a discipline. I find that working in an area of pathology that has such a direct impact on the quality of life of transplant recipients – as well as helping to fulfil the wishes of their donors – extremely rewarding. Working within the H&I Affinity Group has allowed me to develop and share my scientific interests with my peers, and our group has helped progress the aims of BSHI, which we hope will increase our understanding of the immune mechanisms involved in the care of patients who require a life-saving or life-enhancing transplant.

Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics Group Committee

Chair
Professor David Briggs
NHS Blood and Transplant, Birmingham

Secretary
Luke Foster
​NHS Blood and Transplant, Birmingham

Mian Chen
Churchill Hospital, Oxford

Catherine Cormack
Churchill Hospital, Oxford

Zareen Deplano
​NHS Blood and Transplant, Colindale

Dr Vivian Hanson
Anthony Nolan, London

Dr David Lowe
Royal Liverpool Hospital

Further information about BSHI can be found at our website: www.bshi.org.uk.

If you have any queries or ideas about the group, please get in touch via luke.foster@nhsbt.nhs.uk.

Luke Foster
Clinical Scientist
Head of Molecular Laboratory
NHS Blood and Transplant, Birmingham