Kidney transplants better with stem cells - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Kidney transplants better with stem cells

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FLINT (WJRT) -

(11/14/12) - Kidney disease is one of the most serious associated with diabetes. Many patients end up needing transplants. There is hope on the horizon. Adding stem cells may make life after transplant a lot better.

Kidney disease took quite a toll on Lindsay Porter's body. "At the end, I was wearing maternity clothes."

Her kidneys swelled to eight pounds a piece. She had PKD, or polycystic kidney disease,  and needed a transplant.  

She wasn't afraid of the surgery, but something worried her. "It was really the medications."

Lindsay faced a lifetime on anti-rejection drugs. She would also have to be on medications to help alleviate the possible side effects of those anti-rejection drugs.

But, Lindsay got involved in a pioneering study at Northwestern University. It involved 18 kidney transplants between unmatched and unrelated donors and recipients. Along with a kidney, each donor gave stem cells.

"The results have been remarkable," says Dr. Joseph Leventhal, who heads up the study.

He says the idea is to create Chimerism- two immune systems in the recipient. "Right, so you have peaceful co-existence, if you will, of the donor's stem cells with the other aspects of the recipient's immune system."

While she started off on the full regimen of anti-rejection drugs, Lindsay was off all the drugs just after one year. "I take nothing, nothing."

Dr. Leventhal says most recipients who went through the procedure had similar results. There is a risk of the injected stem cells reacting against recipient's bodies, none experienced that.

"It may reshape the landscape of how we do transplant over the next decade," Leventhal says.

With a healthy kidney and no more anti-rejection drugs to take, Lindsay is free to spend her time with her son, CJ. "I'm so glad that I've had the last two years to really be with him 100 percent."

Lindsay is doing great since her transplant. A second trial on this technique is in the works. Candidates will be people, like Lindsay, who have already undergone a living donor kidney transplant.

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