Organ donation is miraculous, the idea of replacing someone's failing organ with one that works fine from a different host sounds extremely futuristic, but it is very much a reality. The problem is that the replacement organs aren't exactly what would have been developed by the new body on its own, so it looks foreign to the new body. When antibodies find these new organs they often mark them for destruction and start attacking them, trying to dissolve them so that they don't "infect" the organ recipient. This means that an organ recipient is in danger of losing their new organ if it isn't carefully monitored and cared for. Many organ recipients have to take drugs to suppress their immune system so that it won't attack the new organ, but this has many nasty side effects. The immune system is pretty important, and with it in disarray an organ recipient can be open to many different types of diseases and infections. The side effects from the drugs can include high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, heart disease, and cancer. The drug regimen sometimes has to be continued for the rest of the patient's life, which is a huge hassle for the patient.
There is now a new method of doing an organ transplant that tricks the immune system into accepting the new organ without suppressing itself and doesn't rely on drugs. The method uses donor-derived stem cells in the new body that can serve as a sort of bridge between the donor's organ and the recipient's body. Since stem cells are capable of becoming almost anything they end up conforming to their environment and not getting attacked by the host body.
This new method of transplanting has greatly reduced the percentage of patients that need to take immune system repressing drugs, thus reducing the number of people who have to deal with the symptoms. This makes for a healthier older population and can help make the treatment for many things once though lethal far less obtrusive.
by Mike Selden (C)