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Posted on Sun, Sep 27, 2009 : 3:03 p.m.

Software developed by University of Michigan programmers matches pairs of kidney donor-recipients

By Staff

Computer programmers at the University of Michigan have launched a new kind of matchmaking: putting would-be kidney donor-recipient couples with incompatible tissue types together with other similar couples who are cross-compatible.

The Kidney Paired Donation Transplant Program has made six such matches so far, said University of Michigan Health System spokesman Bruce Spiher.

"The specialized computer program makes it possible for the donor from the first pair to donate to the recipient from the second pair, and the donor from the second pair donates to the recipient from the first pair," Spiher wrote on the Ann Arbor school's Web site.

Multiple kidney transplants have happened elsewhere, including an eight-kidney swap over three weeks in June and July. That involved 16 surgeries at involved Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and INTEGRIS Baptist Memorial Center in Oklahoma City.

The director of the Michigan kidney program said it's the largest of about a half dozen paired-kidney donation programs in the country.

"It's designed to find kidneys for these people who are the most difficult to find kidney transplants for," Dr. Alan Leichtman said in a statement.

One such paired match involved two Michigan women in need of kidneys and their husbands, who were willing to give but whose tissues were incompatible with those of their own wives.

The software determined that Dave Hedberg of Alto could donate a kidney to Lyn McKiernan-Karsten of Allegan, and that Brian Karsten could donate to Marilyn Hedberg.

"Dave is so generous to give a part of himself to someone he doesn't know. It's amazing that there are people out there who are so generous," said McKiernan-Karsten.