Impact of racial genetic polymorphism on the probability of finding an HLA-matched donor

Transplantation. 1995 Oct 27;60(8):778-83.


As successful organ or marrow transplantation correlates with the degree of HLA-compatibility between patient and donor, registries have been developed to facilitate matching. However, racial minority groups have a lower chance of finding a match. We evaluate the impact of the biology of racial genetic polymorphism upon the probability of finding an HLA match for patients of different racial groups. The National Marrow Donor Program has compiled the HLA types of 20,449 patients and 1,625,159 potential volunteer donors. These HLA types were used to estimate the probability of finding an HLA-matched donor for patients of different racial groups. We estimated the HLA haplotype frequencies for different races, and then determined the probability of finding matched donors, given several hypothetical registry sizes. We confirmed that patients of minority races searching the current National Marrow Donor Program registry have low probabilities of finding matches. This was only partly due to the smaller number of donors from these racial minorities, as the observation persisted even when hypothetical donor registry sizes were the same for all racial groups. We demonstrate that African-Americans are more polymorphic with respect to HLA, and are hence less likely to find donors at any given registry size. An increase in the recruitment of minority racial groups for organ and marrow donors will only partially alleviate the problem of equal access to HLA matches for patients belonging to racial minority groups. It will therefore be important to attempt to improve methods for transplantation using HLA-mismatched donors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • Haplotypes
  • Histocompatibility Testing*
  • Humans
  • Organ Transplantation*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Racial Groups / genetics
  • Tissue Donors


  • HLA Antigens