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Penn Medicine set a worldwide record for the most Kidney Paired Donation transplants in a year. Credit: Riley Eastham

The Penn Transplant Institute set a new world record by completing 100 Kidney Paired Donation transplants in a year-long period. 

The National Kidney Registry coordinates paired exchanges between donor-recipient pairs that allow each recipient to receive a compatible transplant. In Penn’s 100th kidney transplant on Dec. 6, recipient Rich Green and his brother-in-law and donor, Jason Kingsborough, were linked with a donor-recipient pair in Los Angeles.

In a typical kidney donation, the transplanted organ is received from a direct relative of the patient whose blood type and tissues are compatible with their own. In the event that the donor and intended recipient are not a good medical match, KPD pairs donors and their intended recipients with another donor-recipient pair, creating an “exchange” between the donors and the recipients of opposite pairs.

For Green, the kidney donor in Los Angeles was a better match for him than his brother-in-law. That donor was paired with a recipient who received a kidney from Kingsborough.

“It’s really cool, the fact that they’ve completed this procedure that many times; that they’ve helped that many people. It’s quite the honor to be No. 100,” Green said to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Medical Director of the Penn Kidney Living Donor Program Amanda Leonberg-Yoo told The Daily Pennsylvanian that KPD has allowed for a large increase in the total volume of living donor kidney transplants. Leonberg-Yoo also said that living kidney donations provide many benefits compared to deceased donor kidney transplants, including a shorter wait time, higher compatibility, and increased longevity.

Leonberg-Yoo described reaching 100 paired kidney donations as an "incredible milestone" in a statement to the DP.

“This encompasses a vision we set forth to ensure safe and equitable access to living kidney donation for both potential donors as well as recipients,” Leonberg-Yoo wrote.

Leonberg-Yoo stated that — although the milestone number is impressive — the Penn Kidney Living Donor Program has helped more than just the 100 transplant pairs.

“We have given hope to others that there is access to the best form of kidney replacement therapy, regardless of the individual situation,” Leonberg-Yoo wrote.

Clyde Barker performed the first kidney transplant at Penn in 1966 between two brothers. The Clyde Barker Penn Transplant House honors the work of Dr. Barker, serving as a home for patients, families, and caregivers receiving transplant care at Penn.

The Kidney Transplant Program at Penn has since grown to become the largest kidney transplant program in the region, consistently performing more than 70 living donor kidney transplants each year.

Although over 90,000 individuals are waiting for kidney transplants in the U.S., less than one fourth of these people will receive a kidney transplant. In 2021, less than 1 percent of these individuals received a transplant from a living donor, according to the OPTN/SRTR Annual Data Report. 

According to the NIH, Black individuals have a 3.4 fold greater risk of developing End Stage Kidney Disease as compared to white individuals. Disparities also exist between Black candidates and white candidates in terms of access to transplantation.

"I believe [that our program] gives my patients hope that there is a healthcare system that is working with them regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background to ensure equitable access to living donor kidney transplantation,” Leonberg-Yoo wrote.

In December 2022, Penn Medicine opened a new Center for Living Donation to create increased collaboration between Penn’s kidney, liver, and uterus transplant services.