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Gerald Brandacher, M.D.

Photo of Dr. Gerald Brandacher, M.D.
  • Scientific Director, Composite Tissue Allotransplantation (Reconstructive Transplant) Program
  • Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Research Interests

Reconstructive transplantation; Donor-specific immune tolerance and immunomonitoring strategies


Dr. Gerald Brandacher is an associate professor of surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He serves as the scientific director of the Reconstructive Transplantation Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

His team is engaged in basic and translational research on donor-specific immune tolerance and immunomonitoring strategies for Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA) such as hand, upper extremity, and face transplants.

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Dr. Brandacher was a key member of the hand transplant program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). He was instrumental in designing a novel cell-based immunomodulatory treatment protocol for composite tissue allotransplantation and was also part of the team performing the first bilateral hand transplant and first forearm transplant in the United States.

Dr. Brandacher has mentored 60 pre- and post-doctoral researches over the past 15 years, and has authored more than 180 peer reviewed papers, 27 book chapters, and has edited two textbooks on hand transplantation. In 2014, he co-founded the journal Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (VCA), and currently serves as its Editor-in-Chief. Dr. Brandacher is the principal investigator of multiple major federal research grants on projects related to upper extremity transplantation, cell-based immune modulation, and tolerance induction. He has given over 130 invited lectures and has been a visiting professor around the world and at leading American medical institutions.. 

Dr. Brandacher has served as the President of the Austrian Society of Surgical Research (2008-2009) and as Chair of the American Society of Transplantation (AST) Vascular Composite Allotransplantation Advisory Council (2014-15). He was elected as Chair of the Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation Committee of the European Society of Organ Transplantation (ESOT) in 2015, and is a Founding Member of the American Society of Reconstructive Transplantation (ASRT), for which he currently serves as the President Elect. He is a Member at Large to the OPTN/UNOS Vascularized Composite Allograft Transplantation (VCA) Committee. In 2015 he was selected as a “Fellow of the American Society of Transplantation”. more


  • Scientific Director, Composite Tissue 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 - (154-02 Prior 3-13-38 Since 6-45) (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

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

Upper Extremity Transplants Without Severe Immunosuppression, Part I

Upper Extremity Transplants Without Severe Immunosuppression, Part II

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

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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