MAY 23, 2017 6:21 AM PDT

Why Donor Organs Get Rejected

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) tabulated that over 123,000 people currently are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant. By contrast, only about 28,000 transplants were completed in the US every year. Of those who were lucky enough to have had a transplant, a percentage will experience organ transplant failure, necessitating another procedure. In fact, about 20 percent of kidney transplants every year are re-transplants.

Why don't all transplanted organs work as intended? There are many reasons why a donated organ won't work as well in a host organ. For example, complications that are inherent in the transplant process, such as clots and infections, could compromise the donated organ's ability to function normally.

But even if a transplant procedure went as smoothly as possible, the organ can still fail due to the body's exquisite ability to differentiate between self and non-self. That is, despite immunosuppression drugs, the recipient's body still recognizes the donated organ as foreign and attacks. This chronic rejection is the most common reason for kidney transplant failure.

Despite the odds of organ rejection, UNOS estimates that more than 2 million years of life were saved from the past 25 years of transplant surgeries. Watch the video to learn more.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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