Baby Cadavers Fill Kidney Transplantation Gap

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Today the Guardian reports that "the kidneys of a five-week-old baby have been successfully transplanted into a woman dying of renal failure, making the infant the youngest organ donor in Britain." Kidneys, have the potential, even before birth, to be transplanted into an adult. Since kidneys fully function at around thirty-seven weeks in the womb, they could technically be transplanted into an adult at that time. Nevertheless there has been a mental and cultural block for a number of years about using such tiny kidneys from an infant because of a feeling that they would be too small and would not work properly.  

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In the United States, child organ donations have increased for the most part over the decade, from a low of 1,170 in 2001 to a high of 1,628 by 2009; with a dip to 1,475 donations in 2010. However even with  the 15 percent anomaly, more than two-thirds of donations to children were cases in which a child donor gave to a child recipient, but as had been the case in prior years, most organs given by child donors actually ended up being transplanted into adult recipients. In 2007 Although children accounted for 7% of the recipients, they comprised 14% of donors, notes Christopher Johnson, MD.

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Children on the whole have healthier organs, and this is reflected by the fact that children who donate are more likely than adults to be able to donate several organs, often three or more. Still, this is not the reason children represent such a relatively large proportion of organ donors. The reason is that their parents, however devastated by the loss of their child, courageously choose to donate life for them. 

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New findings published in "Pediatrics" notes that over the last decade, the number of American children who die each year awaiting an organ donation dropped by more than half (a high of 262 in 2001 to 110 by 2010) and increasing numbers of children are receiving donor organs. What's more is that although doctors do try to match donated organs from one child with another child recipient (particularly if size is important) if no child is a match and size is not an issue (it often is not) the organs are given to adult patients.

Recommended Reading:  Quick and Insightful: Interview with Kidney Transplant Recipient believes that this is good news for the Kidney Community because the situation of Organ Donation is dire especially for those waiting on a kidney. Currently, the waiting list for organ transplants exceeds 117,000 American adults and children, most of which are waiting for a kidney transplant. And although roughly 28,500 transplants took place in 2011, that same year 7,000 people died while waiting for an appropriate donor match. With that backdrop turning to the prospect of enlarging the donation pool by accepting younger organ (kidney) donors deemed to have experienced circulatory death, or full brain death will potentially allow more individuals to receive donations sooner. 

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"More Kids Getting Donor Organs, But Gaps Persist, Study Finds."Http://

"Organ Transplants in Children." Christopher Johnson MD PICU.

"Baby's Kidneys Used in Transplant." The Guardian.