Genetics of Organ Transplants

Rachel Krietemeyer


Genetics is very important in organ transplant matching. Everyone has different genes and some are just not compatible with others, therefore analyzing the genes are very important in predicting if a new organ, for example a heart, is going to be fully functional in a recipient's body. The following three source look at genetics and how it contributes to more individuals being placed on the waiting list for an organ donor, how the organs are matched, and how genetics could further be used in the future to match donor and recipients even more closely.

Topic 1:Genetic Diseases that can Contribute to the Need of Organ Transplants

An individual who is experiencing organ failure is most likely in the need of an organ transplant. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recognizes in a lot of cases organ failure can be the result of a genetic disease. Examples of these diseases are cystic fibrosis, diabetes, hypertension, and polycystic kidney disease. These genetic diseases are from genes that parents passed on to their offspring. If individuals with these diseases are in the need of an organ transplant then normally they have a high expressivity of the diseases. These genetic diseases can cause an individual's organ become worn out or destroyed. Based on the severity of the destruction determines a patient's spot on the national registry for a particular organ. However, in a patient with a genetic disease like cystic fibrosis that is in the need of a lung transplant may start out towards the bottom of the registry list and as time passes and there is more damage contributing the dysfunction of the lungs they will move up the registry (US Department of Health and Human Services).

Topic 2: The Genetic Factors in Organ Transplants

According to the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, once a donor organ becomes available deciding which person is going to be the recipient of the organ is based on a lot of factors. Some of these factors are related to genetics, for example blood type, height, weight, and genetic tissue type. If these factors were not looked at then the body could possibly start to attack the new organ because the donated organ would be looked at as a foreign object that could possible harm the body. The recipient's body could then potentially produce antibodies towards the donated organ. This is why for a lot of living donations (donations that can be taken from a living person such as an kidney or bone marrow) siblings or other close family members are considered to be the best option to look at for a match. Genetic factors are analyzed to see if the transplant is going to be compatible (Center for Organ Recovery and Education).

Topic 3: Genetics in Rejection

After an organ transplant immunosuppressive drugs are prescribed for the recipient as a way to prevent the body from recognizing the donor organ as not its own. These drugs can help prevent genes creating a huge problem in causing the body to reject the organ. However, at the same time these drugs suppress the immune system so the body unfortunately becomes more prone to infections. The genetics of both the donor and the recipient are analyzed and compared in the form of HLA compatibility, ethnicity, as well has past history of transplants. In fact, a new study out of Germany reports that more genetic variants between the donor and the recipient can contribute a sum of complications after the transplant some include delayed graft function, acute rejection, long term dysfunctions, and even death. Perhaps in the future genome wide associations studies could be done to help avoid these life threatening complications by identify genes that will not contribute to further problems (Krüger, 2011).

Future Use and Importance to Nursing Profession

Future Uses

Unfortunately there will probably always be organ failure, it is because of this that organ matching will continue to be analysed and will continue to evolve. It is likely that in the future more genetic components will be factored into finding compatible matches as more studies are done and advances in technology are developed to increase the speed of these test (Krüger, 2011) .


It is important for a nurse to know about the process of organ transplantation as well as the genetic factors that contribute to matching and organ failure. Nurses have to be able to educate both the patient and the patients family about what is happening and how in order for the transplant to work successfully the most compatible match has to be found. It is important for the patient to understand this so they do not feel like they are being discriminated towards by having to wait longer than other individual on the list for an organ. The family needs to be well educated because due to their genetic makeup being similar to the patient they could potentially donate a kidney or part of their liver to the patient. Nurses are the patients go to person for questions and for expressing their worries and concerns. It is extremely important nurses should be well educated on the organ transplant process.


In summary, genetics is very important in organ matching. A patients genetic make up can contribute to him or her needing an organ, for instances a cystic fibrosis patient could need a new set of lungs (US Department of Health and Human Services). Genetics also play a huge role in the matching of donor to a compatible recipient. By ensuring that there are similarities in genes of both the donor and the recipient there is less likely of rejection (Center for Organ Recovery and Education). Genetics is also essential after a patient receives an organ. After a transplant immunosuppressive drugs are administrated to help suppress the patients immune system to prevent the body from rejecting the organ. If this was not done then the patients body would recognize that the new organ was not a genetic match and start attacking it (Krüger, 2011) . Genetics is vital in organ transplants and vital in the medical field as a whole.

Work Cited

Know the Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

Krüger, B., & Schröppel, B. (2011). Genetic Variations and Transplant Outcomes. Nephron Clinical Practice, C49-C54.

Organ Transplantation: The Process. (n.d.). Retrieved November 14, 2014, from