LOS ANGELES - In what's being called a major advance in organ transplants, doctors say they have developed a technique that could free many patients from having to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.
The treatment involved weakening the patient's immune system, then giving the recipient bone marrow from the person who donated the organ. In one experiment, four of five kidney recipients were off immune-suppressing medicines up to five years later.Eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs is "a huge advance," said Dr. Suzanne Ildstad, a University of Louisville immunology specialist who had no role in the work.
Doctors have experimented with giving marrow before, during or after organ transplants, while also tinkering with patients' immune systems to prime them to accept the new organs.
Sachs' treatment involved weakening each kidney patient's immune system with intravenous drugs several days before the transplant. After the transplant, the patient got an infusion of marrow from the donor to create a new immune system.
"There's reason to hope these patients will be off drugs