Renal Success

March 9, 2012

Rheanna Sand


Renal failure is awful. I should know, I had acute renal failure when I was in high school. It was three weeks of hell - extreme dehydration, vomiting, and all the other un-pleasantries that come with losing your ability to filter toxins out of your blood. Luckily for me, I recovered - but those unlucky enough to have chronic renal failure face certain death if they do not receive regular hemodialysis. Such patients generally require a kidney transplant to achieve their normal life span. But not just any kidney will do - it has to be a perfect immunological match to avoid being rejected by the host.

Kidneys are the only major organ for which we have a spare, and surprisingly, that spare is not necessary for a normal, healthy existence. It's been shown repeatedly that one healthy kidney is enough to do the job. There are more than enough people in the world to donate, but finding a donor that matches each patient has been difficult. But, with the reach of the world wide web ever increasing, it was only a matter of time before it became useful for more than just Warcraft and porn.

The National Kidney Registry has finally put the internet to good use, connecting potential donors to hosts across the globe. They set a world record this year with longest "donor chain" ever attempted. One person started the chain by agreeing to donate a kidney to a stranger who was a match, and then a relative of that patient agreed to donate to another stranger who matched, and so on down the line and, in the end, 30 patients were saved from certain death. It's an amazing story that was featured in this article from the New York Times.

However, organ transplants generally come with a lifetime of daily anti-rejection drugs. But this week a group of researchers reported that if the host is injected with a small sample of the donor's stem cells just after the transplant, they may not require such drugs. 57% of the patients tested no longer needed the daily dose of immuno-suppresants, increasing the quality of life significantly.

And that is what I call renal success.



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