Stem cells could prevent transplant organ rejection

8 March 2012

The use of stem cells alongside kidney transplants has allowed a small number of patients to eschew the normal drugs required to prevent transplant rejection.
Research published in Science Translational Medicine reports that five out of eight kidney transplant patients who also received stem cell injections from the unrelated live kidney donor shortly after transplantation were able to discontinue immune suppressant medication within a year.
The idea is that the stem cells help to repopulate their immune systems - deliberately depleted before transplantation - creating chimeric (mixed) new immune systems with a mixture of recipient and donor cells. This then decreases the probability of the patient’s immune system rejecting the transplanted organ as foreign.

Comment: Rejection is the main danger for any form of organ transplantation, even though every effort is made to select organs that will be a good immunological match for the recipients. At the same time, the drugs used to prevent rejection are themselves potentially harmful, so any move towards reducing the incidence of rejection and need for anti-rejection medication is welcome, and could have a major impact on patient health. 

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