Transplant Advances: Simultaneous Stem Cell/Kidney Transplant – Can The Combination Negate Need For Immunosuppressants?

I was hesitant to share this particular news before because I couldn’t find any real sources to verify what phase of clinical trial it was in.  But I find this news highly promising. Yet, I’m trying not to get my hopes up too soon.

When I was at the Gift of Life Family House in August for my transplant evaluation testing, one of the afternoon shuttle driver volunteers told me about an early phase clinical trial. This trial at HUP focused on doing kidney transplants but also infusing them with the donor stem cells at the same time they were transplanting the donor organ.  Meaning they took the stem cells from the living donor along with their kidney & then transplanted them into the recipient in one single transplant operation. The premise behind this method of transplant is to “train” the body to accept the newly transplanted organ as one’s own from the moment it is put in.

This was an attempt to ward off rejection from the start, and if successful, the recipient could quite possibly wean one off of immunosuppressants or at the very least keep their “cocktail” mix to an almost nil level.

It sounded exciting, but almost too good to be true.  I had scoured here & there the past few months for more information, but up until today had not found much to substantiate these types of trials actually being conducted. I also could not verify which phase they were in.

Subsequently, I did find a few clinical trials underway at my center for kidney transplant patients when I went to the kidney transplant page.

The trial I mentioned in the above news segment is being conducted at Northwestern.  It uses living donors.

Most of the other current trials do as well. Most are still in early phase (Phase 1 or 2) so it will be a while before these actually become more mainstream.

However, in a quick search I did find that Stanford is enrolling for a phase 1 trial similar to Northwestern’s. The trial started in 2004 and is set to conclude in July 2016, so it will be awhile before those results are published anywhere. I also assume the same for the rest of the current trials.

Likewise, Harvard is partnering with Brigham & Women’s Health to come up with their own approach & game plan.

I found this link to a list of current clinical trials of this nature across the country.  I accessed it through the National Stem Cell Foundation (NSCF).

Obviously,  it will be awhile before this ever makes it to lungs or if it’s even possible to test. The lungs are inherently trickier for several reasons.

Yet, overall to the transplant community as a whole this is very promising news for several reasons. Not only are immunosuppressants costly, but many cause significant side effects.  Sometimes  they lead the recipient to develop other health complications down the line.

Yet, as most of us in the community say, they are a necessary evil because rejection is a greater threat & fear than most drug side effects.

It could be a huge leap in the fight against rejection if any of these trials prove successful in later phases.

Update:  Even though it’s not the same process as what’s going on with kidneys right now, stem cells are being looked into as a means to expand the lung  transplant donor pool. This notice is from June, but it shows that lung transplant centers are looking to leverage stem cells as well (at least starting to in Canada).



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