Applications for stem cells seem endless. These versatile cells can be used to study development and disease, and they also have the ability to replace damaged cells and treat disease, to name a few of their uses. Recently, there is a new front on which stem cells have an important role: organ transplants.
Recent research shows that stem cells can help organ transplant recipients' immune system accept their new organ, without the use of immunosuppressive drugs. Stem cells, when injected into the body, are able to manipulate mismatched kidney donor and recipient pairs to allow for successful transplantation. Specially engineered stem cells have been produced by Northwestern Medicine and University of Louisville to "trick" the immune system of the recipient into accepting the foreign organ, gradually eliminating the need for the anti-rejection medicine.
Simplified donor matching
In the organ donating process, donor and recipient are immunologically matched in an intricate process. With this new method, the possibilities for recipients are further expanded. Also, this method proves to be very helpful because of the difficulties that come with the immunosuppressive drugs. This medication, which is aimed at facilitating the acceptance of a new organ in a recipient's body, has many unpleasant side effects and pose risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, heart disease, and cancer.
The clinical trial is ongoing for kidney transplants using the new stem cell technique, although there are a few conditions that need be met beforehand. The donor and recipient pairs must be blood-type compatible and have a negative cross-match, which ensures that the recipient does not have antibodies in the blood that would cause rejection of the organ. Researchers hope to also help people who have already undergone a kidney transplant in a second clinical trial. Read more about this development here.