The body’s immune system functions by identifying the foreign material within the body and try to destroy it. That is how it attacks infecting organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
When an organ transplant is carried out to transplant a healthy kidney to a kidney patient, the immune system of the recipient comes into picture and attacks the transplanted kidney as it is identified as a foreign body.
The matching of HLA (human leukocyte antigen) is carried out between the donor and the recipient prior to organ transplantation. However, a perfect match between all HLA antigens in the donor tissue and the recipient’s body is very rare. Tissues such as kidney and liver are rich in blood vessels; hence they are the victims of acute rejection. Acute rejection to the tune of 60-75 percent in case of kidney transplants and 50-60 percent in case of liver transplants is quite common. Acute rejection usually begins one week after the transplantation.
While acute rejection can be treated, the chronic rejection is an irreversible process. Only possibility for chronic rejection case is re-transplantation. Acute transplant rejection can be treated with a short course of high-dose corticosteroids. If this is not sufficient, then the course can be repeated or a triple therapy regime is used consisting of corticosteroid plus a calcineurin inhibitor and an anti-proliferative agent. Hence, all transplant recipients are required to take powerful anti rejection drugs for the rest of their lives to ensure that the transplanted organ is not rejected.
Another alternative that is being thought of now is a bone marrow transplant that is carried out along with the organ transplant. The recipient’s immune system is replaced with the donor’s immune system. This can enable the recipient’s body to accept the new organ without the risk of rejection. There is no need for the recipient to take anti rejection drugs.
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