Stem Cells Help Your New Kidney

Kidney transplant outcomes improved by stem cell transplant

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Kidney transplants save lives, but only if recipients' bodies accept the new organ. Now, scientists are working on ways to prevent kidney transplant rejection.

Stem cell transplants can improve outcomes for kidney transplant patients. These cell transplants may lower the rate of rejection, reduce the risk of infection, and improve kidney function.

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Antibody-based induction therapy plus calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) such as Astella (tacrolimus) is commonly used to prevent kidney transplant rejection. However, this treatment leaves patients at risk of infection. On top of that, CNIs can be toxic.

Camillo Ricordi, M.D., of the University of Miami, and colleagues wanted to see if stem cell transplants could solve these problems.

They found that patients who received stem cell transplants had lower kidney rejection rates than those who received the traditional antibody therapy.

For their study, the researchers randomly split up 159 patients with end-stage renal disease (near or total loss of kidney function) into three treatment groups.

The first 53 received autologous (derived from the patient's own bone marrorw) stem cell transplants plus standard doses of CNIs. Another 52 patients received stem cell transplants plus a lower dose of CNIs. The remaining 51 patients received antibody therapy plus a standard dose of CNIs.

After six months, 11 (21.6 percent) of the antibody therapy patients had a kidney rejection.

In comparison, only four (7.5 percent) patients in the first stem cell group had a rejection. Similarly, only four (7.7 percent) of the 52 patients in the second stem cell group had a rejection.

Kidney function recovered faster among patients in both of the stem cell groups, compared to those in the antibody therapy group.

Patients in both stem cell groups had a much lower risk of infection than those in the antibody therapy group.

These findings suggest that stem cells may reduce the need for immunosuppressive therapy in kidney transplant patients.

The full results of this randomized controlled trial are published in JAMA

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Review Date: 
March 21, 2012
Last Updated:
March 22, 2012