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Gerald Brandacher, M.D.

Gerald Brandacher, M.D.

Headshot of Gerald Brandacher
  • Scientific Director, Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (Reconstructive Transplant) Program
  • Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Research Interests

Reconstructive transplantation; Donor-specific immune tolerance and immunomonitoring strategies more


Gerald Brandacher is scientific director of the Johns Hopkins Reconstructive Transplantation Program and vice chair of research in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He is a professor in the departments of surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and serves as director of interdisciplinary research and innovation for the surgical sciences at Johns Hopkins.

Before joining Johns Hopkins in 2010, Dr. Brandacher was a key member of the hand transplant programs in Innsbruck, Austria, and at the University of Pittsburgh. As scientific director of the program at UPMC, he was instrumental in designing a novel cell-based immunomodulatory treatment protocol for vascularized composite allotransplantation, and was part of the surgical team that performed the first bilateral hand transplant and first forearm transplant in the U.S. In 2018, Dr. Brandacher was a core member of the team executing the world’s first total male genital transplant. His main scientific interests are donor-specific immune tolerance and immunomonitoring strategies, as well as tissue and organ cryopreservation.

Dr. Brandacher received his medical degree summa cum laude from Leopold Franzens University, Innsbruck, School of Medicine, and completed further surgical training at the Center of Operative Medicine, Department of Visceral, Transplant and Thoracic Surgery, at Innsbruck Medical University. He is the recipient of many prestigious national and international awards related to his work in reconstructive transplantation, including the Young Investigator Awards of the American Society of Transplantation and the European Society of Organ Transplantation, the Young Innovator Award of the American Society of Transplantation and the Excellence in Research Award of the American College of Surgeons. 

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Brandacher has mentored 70 pre- and postdoctoral researchers. He has authored more than 240 peer-reviewed papers and 27 book chapters, and has edited two textbooks on hand transplantation. In 2014, he co-founded the journal Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation, and serves as its editor-in-chief. Dr. Brandacher is principal or co-investigator of multiple major federal research grants totaling more than $19 million in funding on projects related to upper extremity transplantation, cell-based immune modulation and tolerance induction. He has given over 170 invited lectures and has been a visiting professor around the world and at leading American medical institutions.

Dr. Brandacher has served as president of the Austrian Society for Surgical Research (2008–2009) and as chair of the American Society of Transplantation Vascular Composite Allotransplant Advisory Council (2014–15). He was elected chair of the Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation Committee of the European Society for Organ Transplantation in 2015, and is a founding member of the American Society for Reconstructive Transplantation, for which he currently serves as president. He has been a member at large of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network/United Network for Organ Sharing Vascularized Composite Allograft Transplantation Committee. In 2015, Dr. Brandacher was selected as a fellow of the American Society of Transplantation. more


  • Scientific Director, Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (Reconstructive Transplant) Program
  • Director, Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA) Research Laboratory
  • Director, Small Animal Special Surgery subcore of Diabetes Research Center
  • Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Professor of Surgery

Departments / Divisions



  • M.D.; Leopold Franzen U Medicine Fac - Innsbruck - (Germany) (1998)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Brandacher directs the vascularized composite allotransplantation research laboratory at Johns Hopkins, one of the leading laboratories in the world whose main focus is reconstructive transplantation. His research is related to transplant immunology, with a particular focus on how to avoid the need for heavy immunosuppression after face or hand transplantation. Other research is related to increasing the body’s ability to accept donor tissue and enhancing the rate at which nerves are regenerating after surgery.

Particular research projects in the lab include:

• Exploring novel immunomodulatory treatment strategies that eliminates the need for long-term medication after hand and face transplantation

• Testing innovative stem cell-based techniques to speed and enhance nerve regeneration

• Developing new, noninvasive methods to detect graft rejection at its earliest, treatable stages

• Studying cortical reintegration and how nerve pathways within the brain “rewire” after limb transplantation

Clinical Trials

Human Upper Extremity Allotransplantation (Recruiting)
Human Craniomaxillofacial Allotransplantation (Recruiting)
Human Penile Allotransplantation (Recruiting)

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Kern B, Budihardjo JD, Mermulla S, Quan A, Cadmi C, Lopez J, Khusheim M, Xiang S, Park J, Furtmüller GJ, Sarhane KA, Schneeberger S, Lee WP, Hoke A, Tuffaha S, Brandacher G. A Novel Rodent Orthotopic Forelimb Transplantation Model that Allows for Reliable Assessment of Functional Recovery Resulting from Nerve Regeneration. Am J Transplant. 2017 Mar;17(3):622-634. doi: 10.1111/ajt.14007. PMID: 27500557

Lin CH, Wang YL, Angelia MR, Chuang WY, Cheng HY, Mao Q, Zelken JA, Lin CH, Zheng XX, Lee WPA, Brandacher G. Combined Anti-CD154/CTLA4Ig Costimulation Blockade-Based Therapy Induces Donor-Specific Tolerance to Vascularized Osteomyocutaneous Allografts. Am J Transplant 2016 Jul;16(7):2030-41. doi: 10.1111/ajt.13694. PMID: 26914847

Schneeberger S*, Gorantla VS*, Brandacher G*, Zeevi A, Demetris AJ, Lunz JG, Metes DM, Donnenberg AD, Shores JT, Dimartini AF, Kiss JE, Imbriglia JE, Azari K, Goitz RJ, Manders EK, Nguyen VT, Cooney DS, Wachtman GS, Keith JD, Fletcher DR, Macedo C, Planinsic R, Losee JE, Shapiro R, Starzl TE, Lee WP. Upper-Extremity Transplantation Using a Cell-Based Protocol to Minimize Immunosuppression. Ann Surg. 2013 257(2):345-351. PMID: 23001085 *Contributing equally first authors

Contact for Research Inquiries

Email me

Activities & Honors


  • Biotest Austrotransplant Award
  • Young Investigator Award, American Society of Transplantation (AST)
  • Excellence in Research Award, American College of Surgeons (ACS)
  • Young Investigator Award, European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT)
  • Theodor Billroth Award, Austrian Surgical Society
  • Fellow American Society of Transplantation


  • American Society of Reconstructive Transplantation (ASRT)

    Founding and scientific advisory board member and President-Elect (2018-2020)

  • Austrian Society of Surgical Research
  • Composite Tissue Allotransplantation Working Group of the European Society of Organ Transplantation (ESOT)

    Board Member, Past Chair Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation Committee

  • American Society of Transplantation

    Past-chair Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation Advisory Council

Videos & Media

  • Play Video:

    Upper Extremity Transplants Without Severe Immunosuppression, Part I

  • Play Video:

    Upper Extremity Transplants Without Severe Immunosuppression, Part II

  • Play Video:

    #TomorrowsDiscoveries: Reconstructive Transplantation – Gerald Brandacher, M.D.

  • Play Video:

    Hand Transplant -- Gerald Brandacher

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Behind Hand and Arm Transplants: Experts discuss the medical considerations that go into a successful hand transplant, Ask the Expert (5/1/2016)

New techniques may end need for dangerous transplant rejection drugs, Washington Post (7/1/2014)

Wunderwerk Penis - neues vom männlichen Zentralorgan” Gerald Brandacher, MD Johns Hopkins Penis Transplantation, Program 3sat: TV documentary (4/19/2006)

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