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ZonMw grant for study on kidney transplants in over 65s

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11 September 2018

Researchers from the Department of Nephrology and Transplantation at the UMCG (Prof. Stefan Berger and Dr Jan-Stephan Sanders) have been awarded a whopping €1.2m grant by ZonMw. They are going to carry out a large multicentre study of kidney-transplant patients over the age of 65. The researchers particularly want to find out if elderly patients benefit from an adapted dose of immunosuppressive drugs. This is the first large-scale study to focus solely on elderly kidney patients. The UMCG and Erasmus MC are coordinating the study.

Thirty percent of all kidney transplants at the UMCG are in patients over the age of 65. This is in a special programme (‘old for old’) in which the organs of older donors mainly go to older recipients. Transplantation in the elderly is a great challenge, however, because there is a higher risk of complications. Their reduced resistance means the elderly are more susceptible to infection. They can develop heart problems and their general recovery is slower. However, they are less likely to reject the new organ and have a less-active immune system. In this study, the researchers will look at whether these patients would benefit from an adapted schedule of immunosuppressants. This could lead to fewer infections, a higher survival rate and perhaps even less stress on the vascular system and less damage to the kidney.

‘With older patients, we must concentrate more on quality of life and less on preventing rejection’, says Berger. ‘Our aim is different: if a 75-year-old gets five more good years, then that is a successful transplant. Long-term rejection is hardly an issue for the elderly. Of course, this is also a great research project within the scope of Healthy Ageing.’ 

Read an interview with Stefan Berger in Kennis In Zicht, the UMCG science magazine. He will give his inaugural lecture as Professor of Transplantation Nephrology on 11 September 2018.