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MTN Laboratory Services

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Did you know that Midwest Transplant Network provides state-of-the-art histocompatibility testing for transplant and cancer centers across Kansas and western Missouri? We are a leader in HLA testing and the designated organ procurement organization (OPO) lab that provides histocompatibility services for organ transplantation throughout MTN’s service area. But what is HLA testing? And why are histocompatibility services important? We recently asked our Laboratory Director, Scott McDonald, to answer a few questions about the lab and the tests they perform to help better understand this crucial work and its impact on organ, eye and tissue donation.


Briefly describe MTN’s laboratory. 

The MTN laboratory provides histocompatibility transplant services for a population of 5.6 million, which includes five transplant centers and 15 programs. With state-of-the-art testing instruments and highly skilled staff, the MTN laboratory is focused on promoting quality services while supporting innovative advancements in the field of transplantation.


What is histocompatibility testing, and how does it come into play with organ, eye and tissue donation?

Histocompatibility testing specifically determines genetic compatibility between the patient and potential organ donor. Each person carries unique genes that, in the setting of transplant, can be seen by the recipient immune system as foreign and cause rejection. Histocompatibility testing finds the best match to prevent graft rejection.

Cornea and tissue transplants don’t require histocompatibility testing. However, infectious disease testing is required to prevent communicable disease transmission.


For what type(s) of transplant does MTN’s lab perform tests?

MTN provides histocompatibility testing services to support the following transplants:

  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Bone marrow
  • Liver


Describe the general process for matching a donated organ to a recipient. At a high level, who and what are involved in the process?

Compatibility between donor and recipient is determined by identifying protein markers called human leukocyte antigens (HLA). This is accomplished by molecular methods, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which uses genomic DNA isolated from donor and recipient blood. In addition, we test the recipient’s blood to make sure that they do not carry harmful antibodies that can reject the graft. We use the results of both of these procedures to identify the best possible matches between the donor and recipient to promote a successful transplant.


What area does MTN’s lab serve?

MTN’s laboratory is the designated OPO histocompatibility lab for the state of Kansas and western Missouri. This includes histocompatibility services to the following transplant centers: the University of Kansas Health System, Saint Luke’s Hospital (Kansas City), Research Medical Center, University Hospital and Children’s Mercy Kansas City.