There is a critical shortage of organs within the organ transplant field. Even though there are more than 100,000 people awaiting organ transplants in the United States, there were only 14,903 deceased organ donors last year. The organ shortage crisis in the U.S. and across the globe is taking thousands of lives each year. In the U.S. alone, 13 patients lose their lives to severe kidney disease every day while awaiting a compatible kidney.
With around 92,000 people waiting for an organ transplant this year, 1 in 10 of them will have quite a hard time securing a compatible kidney. On top of the organ shortage, these patients face the risk of organ rejection after receiving a compatible organ.
Reviews of blood from kidney disease patients have revealed the presence of antibodies that are likely to attack any organ such a patient receives.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center’s Joshua Hill, MD, notes that having antibodies against potential donors is one of the primary mechanisms behind organ rejection. He said that patients with such antibodies could not receive most of the available organs and are forced to stay on the waiting list for a long time, which significantly increases their chances of dying.
Hill, a specialist in immunology and infections, is part of a crop of researchers working to boost the immune system’s ability to prevent or treat viral infections and fight blood cancer. He and other researchers from Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington used their blood cancer expertise to find a type of antibody that increases the odds of organ rejection in critical organ transplants.
The researchers suspect that plasma cells are to blame, specifically B cells that produce antibodies once the immune system notices a threat. Although physicians already prescribe certain drugs to organ transplant patients to clear out B cells, Hill and his colleagues believe that we should take a closer look at the association between specialized plasma cells and organ rejection.
The team recently published a study in the “American Journal of Transplantation” suggesting that leftover plasma cells may be involved in organ rejection.
Highly sensitized patients, such as kidney and heart transplant patients, face an especially high risk of organ rejection due to these leftover B cells. If clinicians are able to find and get rid of hidden and long-lived plasma cells, highly sensitized patients who were primarily locked out of the donation pool could find compatible organs much faster.
Other efforts are being directed by companies such as Aditxt Inc. (NASDAQ: ADTX) toward tweaking the immune system so that the likelihood of a donated organ being rejected is minimized.
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