How long does a transplanted organ last? To answer this question, many variables would have to be taken into account, but what we can answer, as a result of the news made public in Taiwan, is that there are many. And it is that, in that country there is a transplant recipient who has a kidney of no less than 115 years.
Last name Chen, the man received the organ from his 65-year-old mother in 1973. Just last week was the anniversary of the transplant to which he underwent half a century ago, which is why the hospital where the operation took place organized a commemorative ceremony of the intervention. A fact that coincided with Chen’s birthday, specifically number 81.
The operation we are talking about took place on July 11, 1973, and the person in charge of it was doctor Li Chun-jen, professor of surgery at the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH). A pioneer in such transplants, he attended Harvard University in the 1960s to study surgical metabolism and organ transplantation, and in 1968 performed the first kidney transplant in a living patient in Asia.
At the time of the operation, Chen was 31 years old and received the kidney from his 65-year-old mother. Therefore, as we said at the beginning, the kidney is currently 115 years old. And, according to the medical reports, its function “is still pretty good.”
The biggest difficulty after a kidney transplant is that the recipient’s immune system can attack the implanted organ by identifying it as a foreign body, which is the so-called rejection phenomenoncausing it to be damaged and lose its function.
That is why evaluating compatibility before a transplant is very important. Priority should be given to blood type matching, followed by white blood cell antigen. Therefore, transplantation between blood relatives is more advantageousas explained by Dr. Lin, and Chen and his mother had the same blood type and half of their white blood cell antigen genes matched, the expert continued.
Our country is a leader not only in organ donation, but also in its application, being at the forefront of the latest techniques. For this reason, there are also patients here with organs transplanted for many years. Such is the case of Carmen Villanueva, who in 2019 became the world’s oldest transplanted person. So, at the age of 71, he had already been living with a donated kidney for half a century. He received the organ at the Puerta de Hierro Hospital in Madrid and, in statements made to the media at the time, he claimed to feel good as well as lead a “normal” life. A year earlier she had been the recipient of another transplant, this time of the liver.