Posts Tagged stem cell transplants

No More Anti-rejection Drugs?

Posted by on Tuesday, 14 January, 2014


Cartoon about anti-rejection drugs



A diseased lung, a diseased liver –  even a mangled finger –   can be replaced with one from a donor assuming you can find someone to do the donor-ing.

It isn’t as simple as it sounds. (Does it sound simple?).

First of all, to get a  donor organ you  have to be “lucky” . Unless you have a near relative who is willing to donate  (giving up a heart isn’t allowed) you may have to go “on the list”. Some of those lists stretch to the moon.  The criteria for selection can be stiff. Not sick enough won’t work. Too sick might not work either – not if you’re a bad risk.  And if you do get a transplant your immune system might attack the donated organ. Only matches that are very close are likely to get along well with your immune system and if your body does reject the organ, the entire effort will have been a total waste and you may even be worse off than when you started.

To keep this from happening, doctors give patients anti-rejection drugs. Those drugs are taken forever. Until the patient dies. And, you know what? They aren’t cheap and  they  have side effects – some so bad that you wonder “What was I thinking?”

If you mess up and forget to take your anti-rejection drugs?

That’s bad too.  You could – let’s be honest, okay? – you could die or, at least, be real sick. And you could reject the organ.

That’s the destiny of many recipients of a transplant- a lifetime of drugs that are often hard to tolerate.


My news is good.

Two doctors at MGH (Mass General Hospital), James F. Markmann and Tatsuo Kawai, did a small study (Science Translational Medicine but referenced here in Bioscience and Technology) .  For many of their patients they had donor organs that weren’t such a good match. So they did the transplants and followed up not with anti-rejection drugs but with stem cell transplants from the donors.

It worked!

MISTER ScienceAintSoBad wishes he he could adequately express his enormous joy at this fantastic research. I would write an ode if I knew how.

It is still a work in progress even though another group had similar success. More tests have to be done before this can be considered “standard of care” or even be introduced into the clinic. But if it sounds exciting, that’s because it is exciting.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10 well deserved points.

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The drawing is mine.

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