Five patients have survived up to four months without suffering rejection problems after having the new treatment, the International Congress of the Transplantation Society in Rome, Italy, heard.
Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pennsylvania, USA, exposed the new bowel to a few minutes of radiation just before carrying out the transplant operation. Patients were then given bone marrow during the operation.
"Only within the past 10 years, primarily due to the advent of the anti-rejection drug tacrolimus, has intestinal transplantation been clinically feasible."
Dr Kareem Abu-Elmagd.
The patients involved in the trial underwent single small bowel transplants as well as bowel and liver transplants and multi-organ procedures.
At the same time two patients underwent control operations, and experienced episodes of rejection within a few weeks.
Dr Kareem Abu-Elmagd, Associate Professor of Surgery and Director of Intestinal Transplantation at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, said long term follow-up was necessary to see if the method had continuing benefits.
He said: "Such findings are significant because, despite improvements in survival rates for intestinal transplants, frequent and difficult-to-treat rejection have continued to defy surgeons. But because the intestines are laden with immune system cells that serve as a prime target for recipient immune system attack, cocktails of drugs have been only so effective."
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