The Wellesley News | Elinor Higgins

An experimental procedure in the medical field may allow anybody to receive a kidney transplant from any other person. Usually, the waiting list for an organ transplant consists of thousands of people. Even once a person’s name has reached the top, there is no guarantee that the next available kidney will be one that is compatible with their body. For those in kidney failure, dialysis, a procedure that cleans the blood, needs to be done several times a week until a compatible donor organ becomes available. Dialysis is invasive, time consuming and very expensive. Unfortunately, for many people this becomes their reality for the rest of their lives.
It is estimated that 20 to 50 percent of people on the kidney waiting list have antibodies in their blood that would attack a transplanted kidney and make it difficult or impossible for a transplant to occur. These are very specific antibodies called Human Leukocyte Antigen antibodies, or HLA antibodies. They are inherited from parents and vary from person to person. If the antibodies do not match, there is a high risk of organ rejection after a transplant.
Possibility of rejection is one of the many issues associated with organ transplants. There are drugs that suppress the immune system so that the body will not reject an organ, but they put people at risk for catching infectious diseases and are not always successful. The new procedure, developed by Dr. Dorry Segev and a team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, works more directly by changing the entire immune system of the person receiving the transplant. It is called desensitization. Continue reading
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