Innovation & Research

The Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program brings together research and clinical care in a single integrated approach. Some of the areas in which our Kidney Transplant Program has led the way in research include:

Transplanting adult-sized kidneys into infants and children
Pioneered at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, transplanting adult-sized kidneys into infants and children has achieved the best survival outcomes of any transplanted organ in any age group and set the standard for transplantation success.

Steroid-free suppression of organ rejection
Used for over 40 years to suppress the immune system and help prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs, steroids have severe side effects. They can cause high blood pressure, abnormally high blood fat levels, acne, mood swings, diabetes, slow wound healing, soft bones, decreased growth and a puffy appearance. The side effects are particularly significant for infants and small children, in whom the growth-suppressing effects of hormones are often dramatic, and among teenagers, who sometimes skip their medications to avoid side effects like acne and abnormal hair growth and set the stage for chronic organ rejection.

To avoid steroid effects, the Kidney Transplant Program developed a drug program that prevents rejection without steroids. The program has been highly successful, achieving survival rates as high as the standard steroid-based protocol.

Genetic profiling
The Kidney Transplant Program is developing ways of determining a child’s inherited likelihood of organ rejection and tailoring post-transplant medications to the patient’s specific genetic profile. This work, while still in its initial stages, promises much more accurate diagnosis of acute rejection of a donated kidney and could improve physicians’ ability to stop the rejection before the kidney is lost.

Success with very small, very sick newborns
Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford pioneered the use of dialysis on low birth-weight infants, even those born prematurely, and led the way on successful transplantation in children who are both very young and very small. Much of this success comes from our ability to prepare children for surgery by optimizing dialysis and nutrition and controlling other conditions, such as hypertension. As a result, we have also posted the highest possible success rate—100% at two years after transplantation—in infants who require both liver and kidney transplantation because of the disease primary hyperoxaluria type I.