In a development that could revolutionise transplantation surgery, the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre has developed a technique that will put an end to patients’ lifelong dependence on drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ.
The technique known as ‘transplantation tolerance’ refers to introduction of donor’s stem cells in the recipient’s body through a graft which, in turn, will create regulatory cells. These cells will prevent the body from attacking the transplanted organ over a long period of time.
It should be noted that at present if a patient undergoes transplant surgery he has to be given immuno-suppressive drugs to prevent the immune system from attacking the new organ. With the new technique, a tolerance is developed in the recipient’s body for the new organ without affecting the immune system.
“Transplantation may be the only recourse left for several patients. But one of its side-effects is lifelong dependence on drugs that suppress the immune system over a long period of time. This means transplant patients remain susceptible to various diseases. However, with this technique, the patients are off the drugs after 2 years and their immune system remains normal, thus improving their longevity,” said Dr HL Trivedi, director (IKDRC).
This will also bring down the cost for the patients as they will not need to spend on medicines after 2 years of transplantation. At present this technique is available only for kidney transplant patients.Dr Aruna Vanikar, stem cell researcher who, along with her team, has been working on developing the regulatory cells since 1998, said that the cells are taken from a donor’s bone marrow and belly fat.
“In simple parlance we can say that a ‘stem cell cocktail’ is created which is then introduced into the liver before the kidney transplantation takes place. The regulatory cells are then created which over a period of time prevent the cells of the recipient’s body from attacking the organ. But in the process the immunity of the body is not compromised,” said Vanikar.
When DNA contacted an outside expert on the subject, he agreed that it was indeed an effective technique. “In India, the kidney hospital is perhaps the only one using this technique. It may or may not be available in developed countries,” said Dr Kamal Goplani, consultant nephrologists at Shalby Hospital. The institute claimed that so far 1500 patients had benefited from this technique. Out of the 1500 patients, 70 are now off immuno-suppressive drugs. Two papers of the institute in this connection submitted by doctors at the International Conference of Transplantation Society also won an award.