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article imageLiver Transplant Recipient Sees Change in Blood Type

By Eric S. Wyatt     Jan 24, 2008 in Health
Doctors are claiming a first in documented medical science: A female recipient of a liver transplant has assumed the blood type and immune system characteristics of the donor, eclipsing her original medical state.
The story indicates that an Australian girl has "spontaneously" assumed the medical characteristics of the donor of her transplanted organ.
The nine-year-old was suffering from liver failure, and received a transplant in one of Sydney's top children's hospitals. Doctors treating her found out nine months later that the change in blood type had happened, apparently due to stem cells in the transplanted organ migrating into the girl's own bone marrow.
A doctor who is treating her - and who has given lectures about her case around the world - indicated that the recipient is healthy some five years after the surgery. She continues to receive treatment as an outpatient, in hopes of finding some clues to why this happened and possibly helping others who are undergoing transplant. In all of his discussions about the case, he has yet to find another similar incident. A brief review of the strange outcome is published in the current New England Journal of Medicine.
"It is extremely unusual -- in fact we don't know of any other instance in which this happened," said Michael Stormon, a hepatologist (a gastroenterologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating liver diseases) treating her. "In effect she had had a bone marrow transplant. The majority of her immune system had also switched over to that of the donor."
If some method of duplicating this reaction could be found, it could prove valuable to transplant recipients, many of whom experience a rejection of the new organ when their immune system does not cooperate with the new tissue.
More about Blood type, Change, Liver transplant