A Breakthrough for Transplant Patients?

A Breakthrough for Transplant Patients?

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie Thompson

Life Saver, AMC

posted on Jan 7, 2014, at 9:51 pm

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A NEW STUDY HAS BEEN RELEASED that offers hope to the over 100,000 Americans who undergo or wait to undergo organ transplants each year. The premise is simple: give the patient two transplants — first transplant the organ itself, then give the patient a second transplant of stem cells from the organ’s donor. This process is intended to prevent a condition called Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GvHD), a common and frequently deadly result of bone marrow transplants. Now, for the first time, researchers have been able to completely replace bone marrow stem cells with donor stem cells without causing GvHD, a breakthrough that has significant implications for the field of organ transplantation.

The small pilot study, carried out at the University of Louisville and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, involved eight patients. In half of the cases, the donor was related to the recipient, but seven out of the eight patients were compatible on no more than three out of five points of commonality, called “human leukocyte antigens” or HLAs.

Five out of the eight who received imperfectly-matched kidneys were taken off immunosuppressive drugs in under a year and were able to completely avoid acquiring GvHD. Preliminary results indicate that organ transplants that are not perfect matches would be more likely to be accepted by the recipients body, freeing the patient from the prospect of a lifelong anti-rejection drug regimen.

The patients were re-evaluated one month after the transplants. Five of the eight patients achieved full integration of the donated kidneys and were able to taper off their dependence on immunosuppressive drugs by the one year-post transplant mark. Only three of the eight patients failed to achieve the state that would allow ongoing acceptance of the mismatched kidney. Out of these three, two have staved off rejection with the continued use of immunosuppressive drugs, and only one patient’s body rejected the donated organ altogether and was forced to undergo a repeat transplant.

Though this is an extremely small scale, experimental study, the findings could potentially save the patients and their insurance companies thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime. Anti-rejection drug regimens generally consist of 15-20 pills a day and as much as $20,000 per year. Additionally, due to their toxicity, the drugs can also make patients more vulnerable to infections and can cause cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and a host of other physical ailments.

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

Contact Mackenzie at mackenzie.thompson@advmedcert.com
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