American researchers have made a discovery that promises to change the lives of thousands of patients with kidney failure and to facilitate the harmonisation of kidney transplants “from any donor” with their bodies.
The researchers said in the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that they succeeded in altering the immune system of patients to allow them to accept kidneys from incompatible donors and that a number of these patients survived for at least eight years after this. The new method is called desensitisation.
Dr Dorry Segev, the lead author of the new study and a transplant surgeon at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that the “desensitisation” process includes filtering anti-bodies out of the patient’s blood first and then infusing other antibodies in order to protect the body while the immune system regenerates its own antibodies.
Dr Jeffery Berns, a kidney specialist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the president of the National Kidney Foundation, welcomed the new method which is characterised by the “potential to save many lives”.
The desensitisation process is expensive and costs $30,000. It also uses drugs not approved for this purpose and the transplant costs about $100,000. However, kidney specialists argue that desensitisation is cheaper in the long run than dialysis which costs $70,000 a year for life.
Researchers believe that the new method offers hope to thousands of patients registered on the waiting lists for kidney transplants around the world.