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Altruistic kidney donors help many

Mass exchanges result in more kidneys for difficult-to-match recipients

When a person donates a kidney to a broad pool of potential recipients, the altruistic act can kick off a long chain of donations that leads to more transplants for hard-to-match patients, a mathematical analysis concludes.

Many people needing kidney transplants have a willing donor, but they can’t take the kidney because it’s not compatible with their blood type or immune system. Paired exchanges, where incompatible donor/recipient pairs swap kidneys with another incompatible pair, is one trick for getting kidneys into hard-to-match patients. Another trick is a donor chain: A person gives a kidney to a clearinghouse or kidney exchange, which can set off a chain of donations.

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