Study backs kidney transplant from incompatible living donors

11 March 2016

In what, according experts was a possible "paradigm shift," a new study had shown that kidney disease patients might live far longer if they received a transplant from an incompatible living donor rather than waiting for a good match.

According to experts this could give kidney patients who might otherwise die waiting for a compatible deceased donor, another chance.

Experts say the results offered hope to "highly sensitized" transplant candidates, meaning patients who had a large number of immune system antibodies ready to attack a donor organ. It was common among people had had a prior kidney transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Patients who had had multiple blood transfusions while on dialysis, or who had been pregnant several times, could also become sensitized.

Finding a compatible donor for sensitized patients was "nearly impossible," according to the study lead researcher Dr Dorry Segev, an associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore.

An alternative approach was to transplant the kidney from an incompatible donor, with the help of special "desensitization" therapies that reduced the risk of an immune system attack on the donor organ.

John Hopkins had pioneered the technique 15 years ago, and other transplant centres had followed suit.

''Desensitization is still not for every transplant center,'' said Segev, AP reported. The findings showed ''you don't need a compatible living donor to make a transplant happen today - you just need a living donor.''

The New England Journal of Medicine has published the study.

Over 100,000 people were on the US national waiting list for kidneys, but only 17,878 transplants were performed last year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Kidneys from people who had just died accounted for more than 12,000 of the transplants, while the rest came from living donors, considered the optimal kind.

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