There are more than 113,000 people on the national transplant waiting list according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Each day, 20 people die waiting for a new organ. Some wait for years for a transplant and for those who get one, the process is tough on their bodies.
Right now, doctors at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University are working on new ways to give transplant patients the best shot at success.
Frank Walker had a kidney transplant and a liver transplant. He says, at times, he had fear of the unknown.
“Would have to double up on the medication, or what would be a result of it?” Walker says.
Transplant patients like Walker take immunosuppressant drugs to lower their body’s ability to reject a new organ. These medicines are expensive and have harsh side effects so Walker is thankful he does not have to take as much of them as some do.
“As a matter of fact, I take less medication now,” Walker points out.
Less medication is a goal for all patients like Walker. His doctor, Laura Mulloy, Division Chief of Nephrology, Hypertension and Transplant Medicine says part of Walker’s success comes from high levels of a protein called HLAG.
“It’s the same molecule that is active when a pregnant woman has her fetus so that she doesn’t reject her fetus, even if it’s not the same blood type,” Dr. Mulloy explains.
Researcher and immunologist, Dr. Anatolij Horuzsko, found that people with high levels of HLAG are less likely to reject a new organ.
“This is a very exciting mechanism for the organ transplant patient when we need to prevent rejection or prolong survival,” Dr. Horuzko says.
Moving forward, they will look at ways to increase patients HLAG levels so they have a better chance at a healthy life like Frank Walker leads.
Now, Walker mentors others who are in earlier stages of their transplant journeys. He says new findings like these are a blessing.
“The things that they are doing to better the life of people that are in need of transplants and people that are in the post-transplant era, it means a lot and it’s a blessing to have it in this area,” Walker says.
CLICK HERE to register to be an organ donor.