Boost of brother's immune system cells could mean drug-free kidney transplant for sister
PITTSBURGH, Feb. 4 A grateful sister got more than her brother's kidney; she also got millions of cells from his immune system in a procedure that transplant surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, working with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, hope will allow her eventual freedom from all anti-rejection drugs.
The technique, called peripheral blood stem cell transplantation, is standard for patients with certain types of cancers, but in what is believed to be a first, it was tried in a non-cancer patient receiving a kidney from a living donor as a means to induce drug-free tolerance of the transplanted organ.
On Jan. 11, a 54-year-old woman received a kidney donated by her 47-year-old brother. Three days later, in a simple bedside procedure taking less than 20 minutes, the woman also received an infusion of her brother's immune system cells taken from blood he had donated during a four-hour outpatient session this past month. Both donor and recipient were discharged five days after transplant.
"So far, we are pleased with how the donor and recipient are doing. By all indications, the recipient's transplanted kidney is functioning well, and she has had no complications from the stem cell infusion. But it is too soon to know if the stem cell infusion will be effective. It will be several months or more before we'll determine whether it is safe to begin weaning her off immunosuppressive drugs," said the recipient's surgeon, Velma Scantlebury, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute.
"Unlike liver transplant patients, very few kidney recipients have been able to be safely weaned off immunosuppression. We think this is because the kidney contains less of the types of cells that are immunoprotective. It is presumed tha
Contact: Lisa Rossi
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center