It turns out you can recycle just about anything these days—even kidneys and other organs donated for transplants. In what is believed to be the first documented case of its kind in the US, a transplanted kidney that was failing was removed from a patient while he was still alive and given to somebody else. The donated kidney lasted just two weeks in the first patient, a 27-year-old Illinois man. The same disease that ruined his kidneys started to damage the new kidney, given to him by his sister.
He was getting sicker, and doctors needed to act fast if they were going to save the organ. With permission from the man and his sister, they removed it last July and retransplanted it into a 67-year-old Indiana man. "The fact that they were able to give it to someone that somehow was able to benefit from it was great," says the original donor. Her brother is back on dialysis and awaiting another transplant. A research letter describing the unusual case was published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.