Friday, October 5, 2012

Transplant tolerance induction celebrates 10 years

TRANSPLANT TRIUMPH: Transplant tolerance induction staff with several patients

“How can I put into words the difference you all made in my life?” asked Jen Searl, MLS, health educator at the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center at the MGH. Searl had tears in her eyes as she addressed the crowd gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the transplant tolerance induction program at the MGH. “You gave me the chance to be who I am today and who I was meant to be, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

In 2002 Searl became the first patient in the world to successfully undergo a procedure developed at the MGH that intentionally induced her immune system to accept another person’s kidney as her own through a combined kidney and bone marrow transplant. The immune system tolerance produced by this protocol allowed Searl to receive the kidney without needing to take immunosuppressive drugs, which can have debilitating side effects, for the rest of her life.

The Oct. 1 celebration at the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation brought together Searl and three of the 10 previously treated patients with their MGH physicians, nurses and other staff members involved in the program. It was a reunion of sorts in which the patients and clinicians thanked each other for their shared contribution to medical history.

“I am so grateful for this procedure and for the MGH team,” said patient Matt Knowles. “I have a smile on my face every time I come to this hospital.”

“The patients are the courageous ones. They’re the ones who say ‘Yes! We will try this!’” said David Sachs, MD, director of the Transplant Biology Research Center.

While the procedure is not yet widely available because it is still regarded as experimental, MGH and international research efforts continue.

“This was a major milestone for Mass General, for the folks in the Transplant Center and the field of transplantation in general,” said Benedict Cosimi, MD, chief emeritus of the Division of Transplantation. “We are here to recognize a long journey and to look forward to what’s next.”

Read more articles from the 10/5/12 Hotline issue.


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