Paired Kidney Exchange

For January 24, 2018

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Prometheus gave great gifts to humanity, including fire, hope, and forethought.  His generosity so pissed off Zeus that he had Prometheus chained to a rock. Every day an eagle came to dine on Prometheus’s liver and, marvelously, every night the liver grew back.

It’s astonishing to me that the ancient Greeks seemed to have more than a whiff of understanding that the liver is among the few (perhaps only two) human organs that can regenerate.  Talk about giving us hope.

As you could read in David Wahlberg’s story in yesterday’s Wisconsin State Journal, this regenerative power of the liver means a living person can donate up to 70% of one’s liver for transplant to another person, and the remaining 30% will grow back to full size in the donor.

In contrast to livers, kidneys aren’t known to regenerate, but most of us come with two, and we can get by pretty fine with one.  It’s not quite “an heir and a spare,” but having two means it’s possible that, with forethought, a person can donate a kidney while that person is still alive.

This adds a new angle to “Live and let live.”

This Wednesday (tonight, January 24), Joshua Mezrich of Surgery will lay out for us the Living Kidney Donor Program of UW Health.

Here’s the description of the program from its website:
Living organ donors fall in one of two categories:

  • Direct Donation: The living donor knows the organ recipient and wants to donate directly to that person. This is the most prevalent form of donation and consists primarily of relatives or close friends of the organ recipient. Transplants involving relatives have proven to be the most successful over time because of the blood relationship between donor and patient. Donors must be healthy and match the recipient’s blood type and antigens. If they do not match each other, donors and recipients can enroll in the kidney exchange program.
  • Non-Directed, Altruistic or Humanitarian Donation: The living donor does not know the organ recipient. The donor may choose to donate to the next person they match at a specific transplant center or can participate in a paired-exchange or kidney chain donation through the kidney exchange program.

About the Speaker

Joshua Mezrich, MD, is an associate professor in the Division of Transplantation, Section of Liver & Kidney Surgery, in the Department of Surgery of the School of Medicine & Public Health. He earned his MD from Cornell University Medical College in 1997, did a Surgery Residency at the University of Chicago Hospitals from 1997-2005, followed by a Research Fellowship in the Transplantation Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and then a Transplantation Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics from 2005-2007.


An eagle did the deed in the Promethean myth, but next week we get to hear about another big bird dear to Wisconsin:  the crane.  Barry Hartup of the International Crane Foundation near Baraboo and of the School of Veterinary Medicine will provide flights of insights to crane health, disease, and their interplay in conservation.

Hope to see you soon here at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!

Thanks again,

Tom Zinnen
UW-Madison and UW-Extension