Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Organ Donation and Transplant News

Selected headlines

Organ Transplantation Advances

From KSPR News in Missouri:
Organ transplantation has come a long way in the past decades. Take heart transplants for example. It used to be that only people under age 50 could get them and they were fairly risky. Now people in their 70’s are having transplants and transplant patients of all ages are living longer and feeling stronger.

“I enjoy doing wood work,” says Bob Aronson.

Model ship building doesn’t look strenuous, but when Aronson’s heart was failing because of a disease called cardiomyopathy, any activity was too much.

“I couldn’t do anything any more other than sit in front of the TV and sleep,” says Aronson.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It causes your heart to become weak until it can’t pump efficiently. Medications may help, but in severe cases like Bob’s, the only option is a heart transplant.

Aronson says, “I’m some kind of a miracle. I was only on the list for 13 days.”

Aronson was lucky because there are not enough donor organs to meet demand. At any given time there are 10,000 people waiting for organs but only a quarter of those people get transplants. But Dr. Jeffrey Hosenpud says there is some good news -- fewer people are dying while waiting.

“We’re using mechanical pumps to keep patients alive while they’re waiting for their transplants,” says Mayo Clinic Cardiologist Dr. Jeffrey Hosenpud.

And more good news is that transplant patients are living longer. Read the full article.

Rejecting defeat
Scientist triumphs after setback in kidney transplant method

"Transplant surgeons said Sachs's study represents a pivotal moment in organ transplantation, demonstrating that it is feasible to eliminate immunosuppressive drugs with their debilitating side effects, such as skin warts, cataracts, and increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, and serious infections."

From The Boston Globe:
Dr. David H. Sachs was full of optimism when the third patient in his $1 million study was wheeled into the recovery room at Massachusetts General Hospital after an experimental kidney transplant.

The first two patients had thrived, adding credibility to an unorthodox idea that Sachs had pioneered over his career, that transplanting a donor's bone marrow along with the kidney could solve the problem of organ rejection, sparing patients a lifetime of powerful antirejection drugs.

But 10 days after the third patient's surgery, Sachs's phone rang at his spacious lab overlooking Boston Harbor. A colleague reported that William Andrews, a 43-year-old father of two, was rejecting the kidney.

Sachs and his research team remember the darkness of the ensuing months in 2003, when they abruptly suspended their transplants for nearly two years. Andrews was demoralized and on dialysis, his sister's donated kidney seemingly wasted. Over and over, Sachs paced the corridors of his lab asking himself, "What did we miss?"

Today, capping a comeback from the crisis, Sachs and his team are reporting that they unraveled the explanation for Andrews's rejection. After they tweaked their protocol, adding a drug to avert what happened to Andrews, two new patients have thrived without the long-term need for antirejection drugs, according to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Overall, four of Sachs's five patients have experienced no organ rejection, a particularly striking accomplishment because they all received kidneys that were different from their own tissue type. Transplants of such mismatched organs are the most common and the most likely to be rejected, even when patients take immunosuppressive drugs. Read the full story.

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