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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Race Blind Heart

Air Date: Week of July 2, 2010

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Research shows that the body's acceptance of a new heart has nothing to do with the race of the donor or the race of the recipient. Living on Earth and Planet Harmony's Regina Campbell-Malone explains.


YOUNG: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Jeff Young. In 1967, doctors performed the first heart transplant, and, the U.S. Supreme Court fully legalized interracial marriage. Now in 2010, doctors have finally shown that the heart never segregates. Living on Earth and Planet Harmony's Regina Campbell-Malone brings us this note on emerging science.


CAMPBELL-MALONE: Interracial couples have known for millennia that the heart is colorblind. But a new study of heart transplants tells us that the human heart itself functions very well, even across color lines. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, examined medical records from over 20,000 transplant patients and found that the one-year survival rates were equal whether donors and recipients were the same race or not.
This suggests that donor-recipient race matching will not improve transplant success in the short term… meaning that an African American patient waiting for a heart is not limited to the relatively small pool of African American donors.

But what we don’t know is why African American transplant recipients still have lower survival rates in the long term compared to other races.
Five years after heart transplant surgery, African American patients have a survival rate that is about 10% lower than Hispanics and whites. While this study ruled out race matching as a root cause for short term survival differences, other factors including health insurance status, education, hypertension and gender mismatch, may be contributing to the disparity. Researchers still have a lot to learn, but the heart of the matter is that when it comes to heart transplants, we're all the same on the inside. That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I'm Regina Campbell-Malone.

YOUNG: Planet Harmony invites everyone to the environmental discussion. Log in and send your stories, audio, video to our site at myplanetharmony.com.



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