Irish child undergoes pioneering transplant in UK

Wednesday 09 July 2014 16.58
Megan Carter underwent the treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital
Megan Carter underwent the treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital

An Irish child has undergone treatment that allows for successful kidney transplantation in patients who have rejected previous transplants.

Megan Carter, from Coolook in Dublin, underwent the treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

The technique allows for children deemed "untransplantable", due to their high levels of powerful antibodies, to receive organs successfully.

Kidney transplants are sometimes rejected due to antibodies, known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies, which fight against foreign objects or organs in the body.

These antibodies arise from previous transplants, blood transfusions or pregnancies and, when they exist organ transplantation can become impossible.

Around 30% of adults are thought to have HLA antibodies, which can cause serious complications post-transplant, including a severe rejection with loss of the transplant, infections, bleeding and even death.

The new technique sets about removing HLA antibodies using a filtering process of blood, called plasmapheresis.

Blood is taken out of the body, filtered to remove HLA antibodies and then re-introduced back in to the child.

HLA antibodies are known to be difficult to remove from the body as it is harder to target them specifically than with other antibodies.

Dr Stephen Marks, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist and lead of the kidney transplant programme at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "This is the first time this procedure has been performed in the United Kingdom in a child, which is important as children have different immune systems compared to adults."

He added: "Historically, children with HLA antibodies would not be able to receive kidneys from living donors and would be on the waiting list for deceased donor kidney transplants with very little chance of being offered an organ."

Dr Marks said that kidney transplantation offers the best quality and quantity of life for children with severe irreversible kidney failure.

The new technique could make transplants possible in these children when it has not been previously, avoiding their reliance on dialysis, he added.

Keywords: kidney transplant