New transplant technique could remove need for immunosuppressant

One of the biggest downsides to organ transplants is that once someone receives a transplant, they've gotta stay on immunosuppressant drugs for life. Those powerful drugs prevent the recipient's body from rejecting the new organs, but they have some pretty nasty side effects.

By suppressing the body's immune system, it opens the door to all sorts of nasty things such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. But a new technique could make such drugs unnecessary, making organ transplants a much safer option. Here's how it works:

In order to get around these troubles the researchers created a way of convincing the recipients body that the donor cells are friendly. They carefully targeted and irradiated the patient's lymph nodes, spleen and thymus, temporarily weakening their immune system. They then administer stem cells drawn from the donor's blood. These stem cells differentiate, and become part of the immune system of the recipient, system-wide moles planted in their system to allow the donated organs to be accepted more readily.

So far, the 12 people who this method have been tested on are living healthily a year in without needing immunosuppressant. It's extremely promising, and hopefully further trials will make this the way transplants are done in the future.

SISFTI via io9

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