Carnegie Mellon University

Enabling 10 Kidney Transplants

03-16-2009

Enabling 10 Kidney Transplants

An algorithm devised by Carnegie Mellon computer scientists launched a long-running chain of kidney swaps that thus far has resulted in 10 patients receiving kidney transplants, with the potential for even more.

Tuomas SandholmThe chain of transplants from living donors, initiated by a Michigan man who donated a kidney to a stranger, is detailed in the March 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Tuomas Sandholm, professor of computer science, is a co-author of the journal article. The first generation of Carnegie Mellon’s kidney-matching algorithm was developed by Sandholm, Avrim Blum, professor of computer science, and graduate assistant David J. Abraham.

The algorithm was devised to increase the number of kidney transplants by aiding so-called “paired donations.” In these cases, a person who is willing to donate a kidney to a loved one, but is incompatible, is matched with another donor-recipient pair. The Carnegie Mellon algorithm made three- and four-way matches possible, as well as increasing the length of donor chains initiated by altruistic donors. It also is scalable so that it could be used for a national pool of donors and recipients.

The United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees U.S. organ transplants, has announced it is developing a national system for pairing living donors and recipients. For more information, see the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Carnegie MellonToday and this Carnegie Mellon news release.

Pictured is Tuomas Sandholm.

Byron Spice