Hello, dear readers, and welcome to a bonus edition of our monthly letters column. Our mailboxes are overflowing, so we'll get right down to business.
-- We recently wrote about living organ donation. That's when a living person gives an organ, such as a kidney, or part of an organ, such as the liver, to another individual. The column led to a question from a reader in Pennsylvania: "Is there a minimum GFR to become a kidney donor?" she asked. "I recently filled out a registry form for a specific patient but forgot to ask about this."
GFR stands for “glomerular filtration rate.” It indicates how well someone's kidneys are working. The result of a GFR test is used to help evaluate if donating a kidney might put someone at long-term risk. The answer to the question is a bit complicated. That's because the minimum GFR to become a kidney donor depends on the person's age and on other health considerations. Also, each transplant center has its own donor guidelines. If your registry moves forward, the transplant center will let you know its requirements. No matter the outcome, filling out the registry is a generous act.
-- A column about a very small clinical trial into a new treatment for lupus, which is an autoimmune disease, brought this question from a reader: "I was recently diagnosed by my rheumatologist with lupus," they wrote. "Having read your column, I wanted to learn the current status of this new treatment. My doctor said it is still in the investigative stage."
The treatment, known as CAR T-cell therapy, harnesses the immune system to fight disease. It is sometimes used to treat certain blood cancers. At the end of the clinical trial we wrote about, the five lupus patients were considered to be in remission. Your doctor is correct that this therapy for use in lupus is still in the investigative stage. However, there is encouraging news. Last May, the FDA fast-tracked a second clinical trial. This not only speeds up the development and review of a potential new lupus therapy, but it also makes it eligible for accelerated approval.
-- We received a letter from a reader who had asked us about diverticulitis, a condition in which small bulges in the lining of colon become inflamed. "I've been managing my condition very well with eating more fermented foods, such as pickles, sauerkraut and yogurt, as well as drinking kombucha and kefir," they wrote. "Taking probiotics has also helped. Are they being evaluated as an aid for diverticulitis?" We're very glad to know the information in the column was helpful to you. As for the potential use of probiotics for this condition, you'll be happy to learn that this is, indeed, a subject of study.
Thank you, as always, for all of your letters. We love hearing from you. A reminder that, due to the general nature of this column, we are unable to review personal medical data, lab test results, scans or photographs. We also can't offer a diagnosis, provide a second opinion, evaluate medications or offer a specific treatment plan.
(Send your questions to [email protected], or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)