Transplantation is a recent phenomena. Many of the big developments in this discipline have taken place within the past 40 years. This part of the web site will highlight some of the key events, people, and cases that have contributed to kidney transplantation as we know it today. Much of the story of transplantation is a story of barriers and how modern scienctific medicine overcame those barriers. This time line gives a brief outline of how transplantation progressed through this century. Following it is a list of the barriers to transplantation that science has studied and dealt with to make transplantation possible. Click on those barriers to find out more about how transplantation went from fantasy to reality within this century.
1902 - The first sucessful experimental kidney transplants were performed at the Vienna Medical School in Austria with animals.
1909 - The first kidney transplant experiments were performed in humans in France using animal kidneys.
- A surgeon inserted slices of rabit kidney into a child suffering from kidney failure. Although “the immediate results were excellent” the child died about 2 weeks later.
- While such transplants did sucessfully produce urine, they lasted only for about an hour before ceasing to function.
- Scientists of the time believed kidney transplants were possible, but their success was limited by unknown “biochemical barriers,” which prevented long-term kidney survival.
1933 - The first human-to-human kidney transplant was performed
- Unknown to doctors at the time, there were mismatches in donor and recipient blood groups and the donor kidney never functioned
1940’s - Sir Peter Medawar at the University of London experimented with the immunologic basis of organ rejection.
Early 1950’s - Cortisone-like medications were used to suppress the human body’s self-defense system (immune system), resulting in some kidney transplant success.
THE PERFECT MATCH
1954 - Joeseph E. Murray and his colleagues at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston performed the first truly successful kidney transplant from one twin to another. This was done without any immunosuppressive medication. A photograph of this procedure is seen above.
- Scientists predicted that immune system reactions should be minimal between identical twins (because their organs were indistinguishable to each other’s immune systems).
- More kidney transplants between identical twins were successfully performed, and some of those kidney recipients are still alive today.
Late 1950’s - New approaches were needed to prevent the body from fighting off a “foreign” donor kidney when an identical twin donor was not available.
1960’s - TISSUE TYPING ADVANCEMENTS - Better techniques for matching donor and recipient blood and tissue types, as well as improvements in preserving cadaveric (from recently deceased donors) kidneys, were developed.
1961 - IMMUNOSUPPRESSION ADVANCEMENTS - Powerful immunosuppressives became available and, in combination, helped decrease the chance for kidney rejection
1980s and 1990s - New tecniques, new medications and new patient information have helped make kidney transplants a safer, more effective and more routine procedure