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Girl changes blood type, immune system

Jan. 25, 2008
Staff and wire reports

A ten­age girl has be­come the wrld’s first known trans­plant pa­tient to change blod groups and take on the im­mune sys­tem of her or­gan do­nor, doc­tors in Aus­tral­ia said on Jan. 25, call­ing her a “one-in-six-billion mir­a­cle.”

Demi-Lee Bren­nan, now 15, re­ceived a do­nor liv­er when she was 9 years old and her own liv­er failed. “It’s like my sec­ond chance at life,” she told lo­cal me­dia, re­cunt­ing how her body achieved what doc­tors said was the holy grail of trans­plant sur­gery. “It’s kind of hard to be­lieve.”

Bren­nan’s body changed blod group from O neg­a­tive to O pos­i­tive when she be­came ill while on drugs to avoid re­jec­tion of the or­gan by her bod­y's im­mune sys­tem. Her new liv­er’s blood stem cells then in­vad­ed her bod­y's bone mar­row to take over her en­tire im­mune sys­tem, mean­ing the teen no long­er needs an­ti-re­jec­tion drugs.

Doc­tors from Syd­ney’s Wst­mead Chil­drens’ Hos­pi­tal in Australia said they had no ex­plana­t­ion for Bren­nan’s reco­very, de­tailed in the lat­est edi­tion of The New Eng­land Jur­nal of Med­i­cine. “There was no prec­e­dent for this hav­ing hap­pened at any oth­er time, so we were sort of fly­ing by the seat of our pants,” Mi­chael Stor­mon, a pe­di­at­ric hep­a­tol­o­gist, told lo­cal ra­dio.

Stu­art Dor­ney, the hos­pi­tal’s form­er trns­plant un­it head, said Bren­nan’s treat­ment could lead to break­throughs in or­gan trans­plant treat­ment, be­cause nor­mally the im­mune sys­tem of re­cip­i­ents at­tacked the trans­planted tis­sue. “We now need to go back over eve­ry­thing that hp­pened to Demi-Lee and see why, and if it can be repli­cat­ed,” said Dor­ney.

“We think be­cause we used a yong per­son’s liv­er and Demi-Lee had low white blood cells, that could have been a rea­son,” he told the Daily Tel­e­graph news­pa­per. Re­jec­tion is nr­mally treated with a com­bina­t­ion of drugs, al­though chron­ic re­jec­tion is ir­re­vers­i­ble. Only seven-in-10 trans­plant opera­t­ions in Aus­tral­ia are suc­cess­ful af­ter a five-year pe­ri­od due to re­jec­tion com­plica­t­ions.


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A teenage girl has become the world’s first known transplant patient to change blood groups and take on the immune system of her organ donor, doctors in Australia said on Jan. 25.