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Lung Transplantation

Are Organs from Idential Twins Rejected?

08/16/2006

Question:

I have an identical twin sister and if one of us needed a transplant could the other twin give it to her sister? After the transplant would the twin receiving the transplant need to go on organ rejection medications or would the body not reject it because of being identical twins?

Answer:

With regards to organ rejection, if the sisters are truly identical, then yes, an organ donation could occur without the need for the recipient to take organ rejection medicine.  In fact, when kidney transplantation was first pioneered, only transplants from one identical twin to another were performed because of that very reason - no need for organ rejection medication. 

However, whether one living person can donate to a recipient (whether they are identical twins or not) is also dependent on the type of organ being transplanted.  For example, one person can easily donate a kidney without suffering significant ill effects from the loss of that single kidney.  Taking a part of one person's liver and giving it to another person to serve as the recipient's entire functioning liver is becoming increasingly popular. 

With respect to lung transplantation, at the present time one living person can not donate an entire lung to a recipient.  Living donation of lung tissue is performed at a few select centers around the country, but this is performed by taking from one donor a smaller piece of lung tissue (a lobe) and taking another lobe from another donor.  These two "harvested" lobes are then transplanted into a single recipient - each lobe taking the place of one of the recipient's diseased lungs. 

Thanks for your question!

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Response by:

David  R Nunley, MD, FCCP David R Nunley, MD, FCCP
Former Associate Professor
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University