Kidney transplant patients may not require daily heavy medication


Kidney transplantation or renal transplantation is the organ transplant of a kidney into a patient with end-stage renal disease. Kidney transplantation is typically classified as deceased-donor (formerly known as cadaveric) or living-donor transplantation depending on the source of the donor organ i.e. genetically related or non-related transplants, depending on whether a biological relationship exists between the donor and recipient. Generally, patient is on immuno-suppressant drugs after the transplant owning to risk of rejection of kidney by the body.  A study revealed a treatment that might not require immuno-suppressant drugs after the kidney transplantation.

Post operation complications and medication
Problems after a transplant may include:

  • Transplant rejection ( hyper acute, acute or chronic),
  • Infections and sepsis due to the immuno-suppressant drugs,
  • Post-transplant lympho-proliferative  disorder,
  • Imbalances in electrolytes including calcium and phosphate, which can lead to bone problems

Immunosuppressant drugs are used to suppress the immune system from rejecting the donor kidney. These medicines must be taken for the rest of the patient’s life. The most common medication regimen today is a combination of tacrolimus, mycophenolate, and prednisone. Some patients may instead take cyclosporine, sirolimus, or azathioprine.

Avoiding heavy doses of medicines post kidney transplantation
Kidney transplant patients have to take 20 to 30 pills a day, mostly immunosuppressive drugs to stop their immune system from rejecting the transplanted kidney. While this does prolong life, it is not only expensive and cumbersome, there are long term cumulative side effects, including a higher risk of heart disease, infection, cancer and diabetes.

Also, immune-suppressing drugs don’t always work, and the graft deteriorates, leaving the patient back on the waiting list for another kidney transplant or consigned to a lifetime of dialysis.

Dr. Samuel Strobe, an immunologist and professor of medicine at Stanford carried out a study and developed an immune tolerance treatment. He took 12 kidney transplant patients out of which 8 were successfully weaned off their daily immunosuppressive drugs. It will lead to freeing patients from lifelong use of drugs, could reduce long term side effects and bring substantial health-care savings. The studies were being undertaken for the last 30 years.

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How does new treatment avoid immune-suppressing drugs?
Strober and colleagues described that the post-transplant immune tolerance treatment comprises of injections of blood-forming stem cells from the kidney donor, radiation treatment, and antibodies that target the recipient’s own immune system.

They said “a donor-cell infusion of highly enriched CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells mixed with CD3+ T cells, and a conditioning regimen of total lymphoid irradiation and anti-T-cell antibodies.”

The radiation treatment carefully targets the patient’s lymph nodes, spleen and thymus to temporarily weaken their own immune systems. Then the patient is injected with stem cells drawn from the donor. These eventually differentiate to team up with the recipient immune system to form one that is now more receptive to the new organ compared to what is seen in conventional post -transplant treatment. Dr. Strober said the recipient’s immune system appears to return to its pre-transplant state of readiness but “casts a blind eye on the foreign tissue of the graft”.

It was observed that the majority of patients were able to discontinue anti rejection medications, and all patients had excellent graft function at the last observation point.

The new treatment for kidney transplant offers a promising treatment with a small study.  I think a bigger trial should be conducted to back up the early results, which could ease out the pains of the receipt of kidney transplant.


2 Responses

  1. David J Undis says:

    Your story about the Medication for Kidney Transplants highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

    There are now over 112,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Everyone who is willing to receive should be willing to give.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling
    1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 14,700 members as of this writing.

    Please contact me – Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers – if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you’re interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.

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