Scientists have successfully altered the blood type of three donor kidneys, a breakthrough that could increase the supply of kidneys available for transplant, particularly for minority ethnic groups who are less likely to find a match.
A kidney from a person with type A blood cannot be transplanted into a person with type B blood, or vice versa.
But changing the blood type to universal O will allow more transplants to be done, as this can be used for people with any blood type.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge used a normothermic perfusion machine, a device that connects to a human kidney to pass oxygenated blood through the organ and better preserve it for future use, to flush blood infused with an enzyme through the donor kidney. deceased.
The enzyme removed blood type markers that line the kidney’s blood vessels, leading the organ to become type O.
One person who has been given hope by this groundbreaking discovery is Ayesha Edmonson, a mother of two from Bury in Greater Manchester.
Ms. Edmonson, who was diagnosed with stage three chronic kidney disease in 1998 while pregnant with her first child, called the news “brilliant” and a “tremendous breakthrough”.
“It gives us hope of saving thousands of lives around the world,” he added.
Mrs. Edmonson, who used to work in retail, saw her kidneys deteriorate during the COVID-19 lockdown, when they told him he would need a transplant.
However, he fears having to wait twice or even triple as long as a white person, and consultants estimate it could take anywhere from six years to a decade.
According to last year’s NHS blood and transplant report, just over 9.2% of total organ donations came from black and minority ethnic donors, while they make up 33% of the waiting list for kidney transplants. .
“Even though I already knew my condition was headed that way, it was still a bit of a shock,” said Ms. Edmonson, recalling receiving the news.
“Because no matter how much you prepare, when you get news like that it’s hard. It hit me hard mentally.”
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She recently began volunteering with Kidney Research UK, the charity that funded the Cambridge research.
The project has not reached the clinical trial stage, but will be published in the British Journal of Surgery in the coming months.
Serena MacMillan, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, said the research “could potentially impact many lives”.
“Our confidence really increased after we applied the enzyme to a piece of human kidney tissue and saw very quickly that the antigens were removed.
“After this, we knew the process is feasible and we just had to scale up the project to apply the enzyme to full-size human kidneys.”
‘Restore the balance’
People from minority ethnic groups often wait a year longer for a transplant than white patients, so the study could have particular implications for them, experts say.
Dr Aisling McMahon, executive director of research at Kidney Research UK, said she hoped the research would “redress the balance” on waiting times.
For Ms. Edmonson, whose daily life has become a struggle because of the disease, the research offers hope for the future.
But she also has words in the present, for minorities who are unsure about organ donation due to what she feels are stigmas and lack of awareness.
“People’s religious beliefs play an imperative role in making life-changing decisions,” he said.
“Even after the law changed so everyone automatically became an organ donor, many people decided to opt out (of the scheme), but I would say ‘think about it’.
“Because you’re giving someone the opportunity to live their life normally, to be able to work and raise a family and have wonderful adventures in life, and you really can’t argue with that.”