Early tests of the technique at US hospitals were successful in a small number of patients.
The journal Science Translational Medicine reports how the majority no longer need anti-rejection medication.
Researchers said it could have a “major impact” on transplant science.
LA Times – The anti-rejection drugs — typically 15 to 20 pills a day — make patients vulnerable to infection, diabetes, hypertension and cancers: they are so toxic, they often overwhelm transplanted kidneys. They have typically cost as much as $20,000 a year, and remain expensive despite the recent availability of generic versions.
And after all that, many patients reject their transplanted organs anyway.
The study, carried out at the University of Louisville and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, involved eight patients.
Their transplant came from a live donor, who also underwent a procedure to draw stem cells, the building blocks of their immune system, from the blood.
The transplant recipient’s body was prepared using radiotherapy and chemotherapy to suppress their own immune system.
Then the transplant went ahead, with the stem cells put into their body a couple of days later.
The idea is that these will help generate a modified immune system that no longer attacks the organ or its new owner.
Although the patients started off with the same anti-rejection drugs, the aim was to reduce these slowly, hopefully withdrawing them completely over time.
Five out of the eight patients involved in the trial managed to do this within a year.