Exciting news for people on transplant waiting lists: In a breakthrough that experts say could revolutionize kidney transplants, a new procedure called "desensitization" has allowed doctors to alter patients' immune systems and give them kidneys from living donors previously considered incompatible, reports the New York Times. Patients who received such kidneys were more likely to be alive eight years later than those who remained on dialysis or those who waited for a deceased donor, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Experts say the breakthrough could help tens of thousands of people who have antibodies hostile to transplanted organs, which makes finding compatible kidneys almost impossible in some cases.
"We used to say if you had a compatible donor, you could do a transplant. Now you can say, if you have an incompatible donor, we still can make that transplant happen," senior study author Dr. Dorry Segev of Johns Hopkins University tells Reuters. "That's very exciting to those on the waiting list." The chances of rejection remain higher with the "incompatible" kidneys, but the research shows that getting a new organ quickly outweighs the benefits of spending years on dialysis waiting for a compatible one. Segev says "desensitization" comes at a cost—up to $20,000 for the procedure and thousands more every year for drugs —but it is extremely cost-effective when compared to $100,000 a year for dialysis. (This woman received a kidney from a friend's Tinder date.)