Blood Cleaning Provides New Transplant Options

Plasmapheresis process separates plasma from blood for kidney transplants

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

(RxWiki News) Finding a transplant match is no easy task. In addition to organ size and donor age, blood types must also match. A novel procedure may make the blood type issue a thing of the past.

St. Michael's Hospital in Canada has become the first North American facility to use a blood cleaning procedure to allow a kidney transplant patient to receive an organ from a donor with a different blood type.

"If interested in being a living donor, ask your doctor."

Dr. Jeff Zaltzman, director of the St. Michael's Hospital kidney transplant program, said the procedure could expand the number of living organ donors. At least a third of possible donors are turned down as candidates because they do not have a blood match that matches the potential recipient.

The actual procedure is called plasmapheresis. It is similar to kidney dialysis, in that the process separates plasma from a patient's blood, running it through a column-shaped device containing synthetic carbohydrate beads that trap the blood group antibodies. This cleansed blood is then returned to a patient's body.

In some cases the procedure must be repeated several times to get rid of all antibodies. In addition, patients receive medications to prevent their immune systems from making more antibodies that will attack the transplanted kidney.

Dr. Zaltzman added that having living donors helps individuals who could otherwise be on a transplant waiting list for an extended period of time.

Transplants that feature a donor and recipients with different blood types are rare. The majority of people have natural antibodies in their blood that would prompt their body to reject an organ from a person who had a different blood type.

"This type of technology could perhaps make it possible for thousands of renal patients to receive desperately-needed transplants. Currently, those patients who do not have a friend or family member who match their particular blood and tissue type must wait years for a deceased donor kidney," said Michelle Segovia, a spokeswoman for the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. "While waiting, most patients have to undergo dialysis three times a week, three to four hours each day to filter toxins from the blood."

In Ontario alone, there are 1,075 patients waiting for a kidney transplant, according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, the province's organ and tissue donation agency.

The blood cleaning device was developed by Glycorex Transplantation, a Swedish company, and approved by Health Canada last year. It has been used once in Canada for a recent heart transplant in Alberta, but this is the first time for a kidney patient. The device is used in 21 countries, mainly in Europe, for kidney, liver, heart, lung and stem cell transplants.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 27, 2011
Last Updated:
July 28, 2011