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Landmark procedure lets kidney transplant candidates get organs from incompatible donors

by AirTalk®

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Dr. Niraj Desai (L) sews in a kidney to a recipient patient during a kidney transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

For years, candidates for kidney transplants have had to bide their time on the waiting list until someone who’s a match donates a kidney.

However, new research out this week sheds light on what many experts are calling a groundbreaking procedure that could allow eligible candidates to receive a kidney from a donor who isn’t compatible.

The study from the New England Journal of Medicine details a procedure called “desensitization,” which basically alters a patient’s immune system so that it will accept a kidney from a donor who isn’t a match.

For many people, getting a kidney from an incompatible donor isn’t an option because they have antibodies that will attack a transplanted organ. In the process of desensitization, doctors filter out antibodies from the patient’s blood and introduce different antibodies for protection while the immune system regenerates those antibodies. For some reason that is still unknown, the regenerated antibodies aren’t as likely to attack the transplant organ

For many transplant candidates, the procedure could mean the difference between getting a kidney and having to spend the rest of their lives on dialysis, which can cost $70,000 a year for life. The desensitization procedure costs $30,000 and a transplant around $100,000, so many experts say it’s cheaper in the long run.


Dr. Dorry Segev, abdominal transplant surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; he’s the lead author of the study “Survival Benefit with Kidney Transplants from HLA-Incompatible Live Donors

Dr. Krista Lentine, transplant nephrologist, medical director of living donor evaluation, and professor of medicine at St. Louis University

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