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Remarkable Discovery Could Change Kidney Transplants Forever

Those in need of a kidney transplant may no longer have to wait for a compatible donor that may never come 

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Health News
3 min read
Remarkable Discovery Could Change Kidney Transplants Forever

In India alone, more than 2.5 lakh patients need a new kidney every year, however, only 6,000 transplants were carried out in 2014. Besides the acute shortage of organs, one in five patients who needs a transplant is an incompatible match.

A groundbreaking discovery by scientists could revolutionize all that for kidney transplants in the future. It could provide an option for patients who desperately need a kidney in order to survive.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine explains how doctors can successfully alter the patient’s immune system to allow them to accept kidneys from incompatible donors. What’s significant is the fact that these patients were still alive after eight years than patients who remained on waitlists or received a kidney transplanted from a deceased donor.

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FAQs About the Technique

This life-saving technique can slay the waiting period of kidney transplants (Photo: iStock)
This life-saving technique can slay the waiting period of kidney transplants (Photo: iStock)

What’s This Procedure Called?

The technique is called ‘desensitization’, and to put it simply, it alters the immune system of the patient to accept any donor kidney.

Besides Organ Shortage, Is There Any Other Need For This Novel Technique?

Till now, the big hitch in kidney transplants is that it can only be carried out if there is a compatible organ; one in five times the patient’s immune system would reject the organ for being a mismatch. Moreover, doctors estimate that about half of the people on waiting list have antibodies that will attack a transplanted organ making transplant almost impossible. Most of these patients lose hope, give up on waiting lists and go through endless rounds of dialysis knowing that their body will reject about any foreign organ.

How’s It Done?

The method filters the antibodies out of the patient’s blood, and then doctors infuse other antibodies for protective action, while the immune system regenerates its own antibodies. The patient is then put on drugs to destroy any white blood cell that would prompt the antibodies to attack the kidney.

Desensitization is done around two weeks prior to a transplant, so the patient must have a living donor. The big hurdle therefore will be to get someone who is willing to donate their kidney.

What’s the Survival Rate?

As a technique, the process desensitization has been in use in 22 American hospitals in the last decade but till now there was no long-term study about its benefits. Researchers analysed more than 1,000 patients of desensitization from all these hospitals over a period of eight years and found that nearly 77% of patients who got a kidney transplant from an incompatible living donor were still alive after eight years.

Is It Expensive?

Yes but all transplants are. The procedure alone costs about 20 lakhs in the US but experts say it is cheaper than dialysis in the long run.

Now that there is proof that the technique is a lifesaver and the rates of kidney failure have doubled in the last decade in India, we’re waiting to see when doctors over here will start practising it.

Related Read: Organ Donation Gap: Less than 1% Indians Donate Organs

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