16 Sep 2010

Washing tipped to extend life of transplanted kidney

1:25 pm on 16 September 2010

Scientists in Britain say they have developed a technique that could significantly extend the life of a kidney used in a transplant.

Early laboratory work suggests the treatment could almost double the time patients could live without the need for a second transplant.

At the moment, fewer than 50% of grafts are still working after a decade inside the patient.

The BBC reports the new approach involves washing the organ in an engineered drug solution during the transfer from the donor to the recipient.

The British Science Festival in Birmingham has been told that the solution gives protection to the organ from the immune system.

"It can be expected to almost double the life of a graft," said Professor Steve Sacks from the Medical Research Council Centre for Transplantation at King's College, London.

Details

The solution limits the action of a part of the immune system, known as the "complement" system, which would normally attack and attempt to destroy cells from any intruder organism, including the cells of a donor organ.

The "complement" system will also support the more general assault on the new organ by the recipient's own blood cells.

Ordinarily, the "complement" response is regulated by protein molecules that sit on the surface of kidney cells, but these molecules are lost in donor organs in the stressful process of transferring the graft into the patient.

To address the problem, the MRC team has engineered in the laboratory a substitute regulator protein it calls Mirococept.

The BBC reports the application of Mirococept is done when the organ is removed from the donor.

So far, Mirococept has only gone through a safety test to show it will not damage the organ or harm the patient.

No clinical trial yet

The major clinical trial to prove its effectiveness is yet to get under way.

But the team says lab studies have been most encouraging and they would hope to get the treatment introduced in about five years from now if all goes well.

According to NHS Blood and Transplant, more than 7000 patients are waiting for a kidney transplant in the UK, and only about 3000 of these are likely to get into an operating theatre during the year.