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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 August 2005, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Blood 'cleaning' aids transplants
Barbara Churchill and Ian Long
Ian gave Barbara a kidney
A new technique could allow transplant patients to receive organs from donors with a different blood group.

London's Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust carried out one of the first such transplants to use the technique, which removes antibodies from blood.

When the donor is from a different blood group, these antibodies can cause rejection.

Barbara Churchill, who received a kidney from her partner, said she was delighted with how the operation went.

Many have relatives who want to donate but are prevented from doing so because their blood group doesn't match
Nizam Mamode, transplant surgeon

There is currently a shortage of organs from people who have died.

However, there can be problems transplanting organs, particularly kidneys, from live donors.

One key problem is that relatives or loved ones might wish to donate, but have different blood groups.

Several teams across the world are looking at ways to overcome this difficulty.

Filtered out

The Guy's and St Thomas' team used a technique called antibody specific immunoabsorption.

It works in a similar way to the dialysis it is designed to help patients escape.

In Barbara's case, her blood group is O, and her partner Ian Long's blood group is A.

Her blood naturally carries antibodies to A-type blood.

In the weeks before the transplant Barbara was given medication to stop her body from producing the usual number of these antibodies.

She then had four sessions on the machine to filter out any antibodies which would cause her to reject the new kidney.

Her blood was fed through an immunoabsorption column, which contains a carbohydrate which absorbs anti-A or anti-B antibodies.

However, the column only removed the antibodies which would cause rejection and left other antibodies, which play important roles in fighting infections.

'Another chance'

After the operation, Barbara was also given a course of drugs to ensure her body did not reject the transplanted organ.

Transplant surgeon Mr Nizam Mamode told the BBC News website: "Ten per cent of people who are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant could be helped in this way.

"The implications of this being successful are very significant for other kidney patients.

"Many have relatives who want to donate but are prevented from doing so because their blood group doesn't match.

"Although there are a number of other criteria a donor must meet before we perform a transplant, we hope that this new technique could help bring the benefits of a live transplant to more patients."

Barbara, 59, had been on the waiting list for a transplant for four years.

Although she was able to work, the receptionist from Abbey Wood had to be hooked up to a dialysis machine for eight hours every night.

She said: "I had been tested a while ago to see if a relative could donate one of their kidneys to me but we couldn't go ahead as our blood groups didn't match.

"When I got the call to see if I would like to try this new technique I jumped at the chance and my partner offered to give me one of his kidneys.

"It was amazing for him to offer to do that.

"I am delighted with the results of the transplant and am really starting to get my energy back now.

"Hopefully, this is something that can help other people, because there aren't a lot of kidneys available."

Chris Rudge, Medical Director at UK Transplant, said: "This is a significant development with exciting potential for the future.

"As more patients receive such a transplant and if the results continue to be successful, it should be an important step forward, allowing quite a lot more patients to receive a transplant from a living kidney donor."


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