A new scheme aimed at making sure kidney transplant patients are less likely to reject their new organs could bring hope to a County Durham woman who's been waiting 11 years for new kidneys.

Gemma Louis, 44, from Chester-le-Street has waited 11 years for a kidney transplant because of “sensitisation from a blood transfusion” meaning it's harder for her to find a match.

Ms Louis, a civil servant, has chronic kidney disease and needs four hours of dialysis three days a week.

She has said a new scheme could help people like her after a pilot was launched down south, and could eventually be rolled out nationally if it is a success.

It will see scientists double-match blood intended for use for kidney transplant patients in a bid to make sure their donated kidney is less likely to be rejected. As well as ensuring that blood is matched by type, researchers will match white blood cells as closely as possible.

About two in every five kidney transplant patients need blood transfusions before or after transplant.

After transfusion, some patients will make antibodies and if these are directed to the newly donated kidney, this can increase the chances of organ rejection.

It is hoped that matching white blood cell type – also known as tissue type or HLA type – as closely as possible between the blood donor and the organ transplant patient will mean that the patient should be less likely to reject the “foreign” organ.

The Northern Echo: Gemma Louis who has been waiting 11 years for a kidney donation.Gemma Louis who has been waiting 11 years for a kidney donation. (Image: PA)

The mother-of-two said: “I was told initially my wait would be twice as long as normal, so around six years. I am 11 years in now.

“I knew I would have a long wait purely because of the antibodies I developed to the transfusion. It’s harder to find a match which won’t be rejected. This programme sounds like it could potentially help people like me in the future.”

If the six-month pilot scheme at Hammersmith Hospital in London is a success then the initiative could be rolled out nationally.

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Dr Colin Brown, NHS Blood and Transplant consultant clinical scientist and head of histocompatibility and immunogenetics at the Colindale lab in London where the trial is being run, said: “In this pilot programme, we are going to HLA-match red blood cell transfusions for renal transplant patients to avoid sensitisation against the donor kidney and so reduce the risk of kidney transplant rejection.

“If renal patients produce HLA antibodies in response to transfusions, this could potentially affect access to transplantation and transplant outcomes. This is an innovative pilot programme, and we hope to improve patient outcomes.

“Each year, around 1,000 kidney patients who are transplanted will also receive a transfusion. If all of them could benefit from a successful transfusion programme and a wider roll-out, our models show 100 kidney transplants a year could be saved.”