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Girl, 8, becomes first UK transplant patient not to need life-long drugs

An eight-year-old girl has become the first person in the UK to have a transplant – and not need to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life.

Aditi Shankar, who has a rare genetic condition, has received both a new kidney and bone marrow from her mother, Divya.

Because she had a stem cell transplant, via the bone marrow, she was able to come off immunosuppressants a month after receiving the new organ.

Read more: UK’s transplant breakthrough is spectacular but unlikely to be the norm

Following pioneering work by doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), her body has accepted the new kidney as its own.

Immunosuppressants are an important part of most transplant patients’ lives, because they stop the body from rejecting a donated organ.

But while they provide a vital function, they work by dampening down the body’s immune system.

Anyone taking them is therefore at higher risk of infection, among other complications.

Aditi with father Uday and mother Divya at Great Ormond Street Hospital
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Aditi is now able to dance and swim

Aditi was referred to GOSH when she was five and doctors discovered she had a condition called Schimke’s immuno-osseous dysplasia, which impacts the immune system and kidneys.

In the UK, it affects about one child in every three million.

Aditi’s underlying immune condition initially meant she would “not be able to receive a kidney transplant”, said Professor Stephen Marks, children’s kidney specialist at GOSH.

But working with international colleagues, the renal, immunology and stem cell transplant teams at GOSH came up with a treatment plan.

Prof Marks added: “Her immune deficiency had to be corrected by having her mum’s bone marrow first, and because Aditi was able to accept her mum’s bone marrow, that therefore meant her body could then see her mum’s kidney as being part of her.

“A month after the transplant, we were able to take her off all of her immunosuppression, which means she doesn’t get the side effects of the drugs.”

Aditi with her parents and Professor Stephen Marks
Image:
Aditi with her parents and Professor Stephen Marks

Only last year, Scrabble-loving Aditi was spending a lot of time in hospital receiving dialysis – a procedure that removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys have stopped working properly.

Now, she is able to swim, sing, dance, and play on her trampoline.

Mum Divya said: “I was so happy to give her blood cells and a kidney. I just feel so proud.”

Aditi said: “My mum gave me my new blood cells. I got the kidney transplant when I went to special sleep and closed my eyes.

“Now I have got the line out, I can go swimming.”

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