Institute of Immunity and Transplantation


Kidney transplantation

Kidney transplants are the most common form of organ transplant, prolonging life expectancy and improving quality of life significantly.

A kidney transplant, also known as renal transplant, is the transfer of a healthy kidney from a donor into the body of somemone whose kidnes are damaged or have stopped functioning.

Loss of kidney function, known as end stage chronic kidney diesase or kidney failture, is the most common reason for needing a kidney transplant. The most common reasons for kidney failture are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other causes include genetic factors, autoimmune diseases and infections.

There is an acute shortage of donors for kidney transplants. The best option for a patient is a live donor. Waiting times for live donors are less than one year. For patients receiving kidneys from deceased donors, waiting times may be up to three years for a first donation, and up to five years for a second donation.

There is a critical shortage of donors, particularly from ethnic minorities. In the UK, US and much of Europe, most donors are caucasion. Kidney donors can only donate within like to like ethnic groups. We are working on ways to increase the donor pool from ethnic minorities.

Patients waiting for transplants usually depend on dialysis. Dialysis is a form of treatment that replicates many of the kidney's functions. It filters your blood to rid your body of harmful waste, extra salt, and water. Dialysis machines are expensive, so they are not always a viable option.

After a kidney transplant, patients require long-term drug treatments called immunosuppression to prevent their body from rejecting the new kidney. These medicines have potentially negative side effects. We are researching ways of tailoring immunosuppression to individual requirements after organ transplantation to reduce the potential harm of these medications.

The kidney is a complex organ, so artificial kidney engineering is a long way off. We are looking for other ways to reduce the rates of kidney rejection in patients with transplants. We can now transplant kidneys from donors with incompatible blood groups by predicting chances of safety through levels of antibodies in the blood.

We are trying to develop vaccines against viruses like Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which si the main viral infection complicating organ transplant. An estimated 50-80% of adults carry the CMV virus, which mostly lies dormant throughout life. The virus can be activated when the immune system is weakened, such as after a transplant.