Tens of thousands of Americans are waiting for a kidney donor to be the “perfect match”. A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine explains how doctors have developed a new pre-transplant surgery procedure to help prevent organ rejection. Half of the 100,000 people on kidney transplant waiting lists have antibodies which will attack the donated organ, and 20% have such high sensitivity that finding a match is impossible.
Desensitization could cut wait times and save many lives, making patients able to accept incompatible donor kidneys. This process filters a patient’s antibodies out of the blood, then they are given an infusion of other antibodies for protection while the body regenerates its own. The newly-produced antibodies are less likely to attack the donated organ. It takes up to two weeks to complete the procedure, so the patient must have a living donor lined up.
In a kidney exchange, patients who have incompatible living donors can swap donors with some other donor who may be a match to them. This can be successful, but if patients cannot find a compatible organ, desensitization may be the only option for receiving a transplant.
In the study, over 76% of those who were desensitized and received an incompatible kidney were still alive eight years later. This is compared to 62% who received a deceased donor kidney and 43% who never got a transplant.
The procedure costs $30,000 and uses experimental drugs. The transplant costs $100,000. Desensitization ends up being cheaper in the end than dialysis, which is $70,000 each year for life. This new process may work for living-donor transplants for liver and lungs as well.
Kolata, Gina. “New Procedure Allows Kidney Transplants From Any Donor.” Health. The New York Times, 9 Mar 2016. Web. 10 Mar 2016.