Kidney Transplant: Non-Simultaneous Extended Altruistic-Donor Chain
Welcome to this month’s Mind and Body newsletter. Our topic: Living kidney donor chains help facilitate more matches. In 2006, one healthy young man stepped forward, willing to give one of his kidneys to a complete stranger. Two years later, ten people had received new kidneys from that one remarkable act.
With this benevolent act, this kidney donor starter something called a non-simultaneous extended altruistic-donor chain. This behavior is referred to as altruism, or the unselfish act of another to benefit someone else. For example, the woman who received that altruistic donor’s kidney has a family member, her husband, who was willing to donate, but couldn’t donate to his wife. So, he gave his kidney to a young woman, whose mother was also willing to donate, but didn’t match. And so on, and so on, until ten successful transplants had occurred.
The final donor in the chain is still waiting for a good match to someone in need of a kidney.
Although this is, admittedly, a complex and difficult process to coordinate, doctors now have computer programs to help them match possible recipients to willing donors. Study author Dr. Michael Rees, Director of Renal Transplantation at the University of Toledo Medical Center, says they now have transplanted 19 people through the donor chains. His group has started chains. The first one has ten donors listed, and the second one chain has five. Dr. Rees hopes each chain never ends.
Details of the first donor chain were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Nearly 80,000 people are on the transplant list, waiting for a new kidney, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, or UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). Many of these people have a friend or family who is willing to donate a kidney, but can’t, because of a mismatch or other problem.
But instead of turning those willing donors away, doctors came up with the idea of paired donation. In paired donation, two transplant recipients, essentially, swap their donors to make a good donor-recipient match. While paired donation was gaining a foothold in transplant medicine, Dr. Rees heard about an idea that led to the use of a donor exchange list. The exchange list would identify people that were willing to donate, but were incompatible donors for one person, but potentially compatible for someone else. So far, the process has experienced success. From the first donor chain, ten transplants have been done in four states. And none of the donors in the chain have backed out of their promise to donate an organ.
For more information, always consult your doctor. Thank you for listening. Please visit our website for more information on health and wellness topics.