New transplant procedure helps with immunity

Health

For people with organ transplants, anti-rejection drugs are critical for survival- but a new procedure could make it easier for patients.

A new transplant is making the dream of a drug-free life a reality.

Having breakfast together was nearly impossible for Barb Okey and her husband after her kidney transplant. The 24 pills she took before breakfast ruined her appetite and the side effects left her tired.

But that’s all in the past now. In 27 years doing transplants, Doctor Dixon Kaufman has never done one like Barb’s.

Her sister’s kidney was a perfect match but then both women took part in a second pioneering~transplant to give barb her sister’s immune system.

Okey says, “We had the transplant and the next day I started radiation I had to do radiation for 10 days. That was to suppress my immune system. After the 10th day, they gave me my sister’s stem cells.”

Dr. Kaufman from the University of Wisconsin Hospital Madison says, “The immune cells start to multiply so she has not only the kidney from her sister but a little bit of her sister’s immune system. And we call that phenomenon chimerism and that’s where you have a dual immune system.”

Immunity that accepts the new kidney and leaves barb drug free.

Dr. Kaufman says, “It’s the start of hopefully a long progression of trials that will allow more and more people to if not completely eliminate the medicines, significantly reduce them.”

Okey says, “I feel very very lucky, very lucky.”

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