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Jamilla Naji art at 78th St Studios - Photo Bob Perkoski
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Innovation & Job News

cleveland clinic celebrates 50 years of kidney transplants

The Cleveland Clinic marks its 50th year of successful kidney transplants this year. While the Clinic was not the first to successfully transplant a human kidney, the hospital was, and continues to be, a pioneer in the field.

“There were two earlier transplants,” explains Robert Heyka, interim chair of the department of nephrology and hypertension at the Clinic’s Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. “One was in New Jersey, but it only lasted 10 months. The first successful transplant was in 1954, in Boston, which worked because the transplant occurred with identical twins.”
 
The Cleveland Clinic performed its first successful kidney transplant in 1963, in part due to the development of anti-rejection drugs, and in part because Willem Kolff, a doctor from the Netherlands, came to the Clinic in the 1950s with his dialysis machine.
 
Kolff’s original dialysis machines were made with a washing machine motor, a nose cone borrowed from NASA and peach cans. He perfected his machine at the Clinic. Dialysis made it possible to keep patients alive while they waited for a transplant. “A combination of medications and the Cleveland Clinic having dialysis machines made the program successful,” says Heyka.
 
In 1966, the Cleveland Clinic performed 126 kidney transplants. Additionally, Cleveland was one of the first cities to establish an independent organ procurement program in the late 1960s. The organization now is known as Lifebanc.
 
Today, the Clinic has transplanted more than 4,200 kidneys and is on track to perform 200 transplants this year. The Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute ranked second this year in U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Hospitals.
 
“All these things we take for granted now as standard and mass produced,” says Heyka. “When you get into it, it’s more inspiring when you hear about the people who did it first and the challenges they had to face.”

 
Writer: Karin Connelly
Source: Robert Heyka
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