About 100,000 people in the USA are currently waiting for kidney transplants. The right donor kidney has to come along for a transplant to work. About 50% of patients have a great deal of difficulty receiving a transplant and about 20% have such sensitive immune systems that finding a matching kidney is almost impossible.
But that may change. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers have found a way to change the immune system of a transplant patient so that it can accept any donor kidney.
This treatment filters a patient's own antibodies out of his blood, then replaces it with different antibodies. Gina Kolata explains at the New York Times:
Desensitization involves first filtering the antibodies out of a patient’s blood. The patient is then given an infusion of other antibodies to provide some protection while the immune system regenerates its own antibodies. For some reason — exactly why is not known — the person’s regenerated antibodies are less likely to attack the new organ, Dr. Segev said. But if the person’s regenerated natural antibodies are still a concern, the patient is treated with drugs that destroy any white blood cells that might make antibodies that would attack the new kidney.