New Organ Transplant Process Almost Eliminates Chances of Rejecting the Organ
Surgeons in two Washington, D.C., area hospitals have performed seven kidney transplants involving 14 donors and recipients that did not have matching antibodies, using a process that almost completely eliminates the chances of a recipient’s immune system rejecting the organ. The process, plasmapheresis, is the use of a machine to remove antibodies from a person’s blood that can cause an organ rejection.
Doctors predict that through the use of this process, racial and ethnic groups that are typically underserved in organ donation will have a better chance of receiving an organ. For example, there are currently 80,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list in the United States. Of those, 36% are African-American, but only 15% of living donor kidneys go to African-Americans. Doctors say that the discrepancy is caused by the lack of suitable matching organs. As a rule, people are more genetically similar and therefore better organ transplant match-ups, if they are from the same racial or ethnic group.
Although minorities donate organs at rate proportionate to other ethnic groups, they also have greater needs for transplants because of diseases that are more prevalent in particular ethnic or racial groups. For example, African-Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Latinos are three times more likely than Caucasians to have kidney disease, the Health Department says. Through the use of plasmapheresis, doctors hope that the chances of a racial minority receiving a life-saving organ will increase.
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