Are the internal organs of black people and white people incompatible?

A friend of mine was at a medical forum and the R.N. speaking somehow mentioned that the internal organs of blacks and whites are not compatible. For instance, if a heart from a black donor were implanted into a white patient, the white patient’s body would reject the new organ. And vice versa.

Apparently, the audience was skeptical about this, but my friend tells me that two doctors, who were present in the audience, stood up and confirmed that the lady was correct.

Anybody know if this is so? And if it is true, why?


Organ compatibility is determined mainly by matching cell surface proteins called the histocompatability complexes. If you and I match at all or most of these genes, I could probably use your organs reasonably safely.

I haven’t heard anything about race-specific histocomplatability alleles, but I haven’t really heard anything against it, either.

This idea sounds dangerously close to racism. I think blood typing is probably more important than race to organ matching.

Ya know, there been a lot of first-time posts with threads like this lately… :dubious:

IANAD, but I know that some transplants (bone marrow, kidney for example) require very close tissue (DNA) matching between donor and recipient to be successful. Other organs are not as critical, but IIRC still require blood type matching. I don’t think race would come into play other than for the tissue matching issue. I know blood transfusions are race neutral.

Some organs will have a higher degree of compatibility within ethnic groups, but others will not. Your friend is likely pulling your leg, as I doubt any knowledgeable doctor would make a blanket claim of racial incompatibility for all internal organs in that it isn’t true.
From Donor Alliance.

Welcome to the board, Burns.

All I can add is that I’m in the National Marrow Donor database, and they’re constantly looking to extend their minority reach because it’s much harder to find a marrow match outside ones race.

Not impossible, but harder. My WAG about it is simply that you’re more likely to have many more recent ancestors in common with someone of your own race, so more DNA is more likely to match.

How does this jibe with the oft-touted idea that race is an arbitrary construct with no biological foundation? This question goes to those that oft-tout the idea.

And further, how does this affect those of mixed-race lineage? Does a wider ethnic mix in one’s ancestry allow for a greater range of donor/recipient compatibility?


[slight hijack]
Is this question really far fetched? Your probably right that it is more related to blood type than anything. I don’t have any facts to back me up, but there are certain things that are fact, without being a racist. African Americans are more prone to Sickle Cell, they also on a high average have nappy hair. Am I racist to notice certain facts? It is very highly possible that this histocompatability complex tissue or whatever, is different than those of whites. How is this even close to racism? Whether it is or not, it’s a valid question.
[/I’ll say no more to stir debate]

Is pretty much answered by

People who are more closely related are more likely to have higher numbers of similar traits. So identical twin is perfect, sibling is good, cousin is better than neighbor, neighbor is better than someone from across the world.

When matching for tissue types, they find a higher percentage of matches when they can look in a group (familial or ethnic) that is “closer” than some other group.

To be correct, this should read, “African Americans are more prone to Sickle Cell than the majority of European immigrants or native peoples in North America.”

Sickle cell occurs both in black and white popultions and an accident of history has meant that blacks who were imported to North America were from some of the regions in Africa with the highest incidence of sickle-cell, while white immigrants are less likely to have originated in the (admittedly smaller) European regions where sickle-cell is prevalent. Sickle-cell follows the map for malaria from Africa and the Mediterranean, across the Middle East, and into and across India. The specific genetic mutation that causes it has two varieties and the one we associate with Africans is separate from the one that occurs in Syria, Iraq, Iran, and India, so we tend not to think about “sickle cell” when we think of those groups. Similarly, there are many areas of Africa where malaria has never been prevalent and where the people are no more likely to develop sickle cell than your typical Swede.

All the more reason we should breed ‘races’ out of existence all together…(in both the figurative and literal sense of the word)

King Bubba, world human mutt

No one denies that what we indentify as races tend to share certain phenotypes. They do. Generally, if someone is described as “black” on their driver’s license, you can guess that that person is going to have certain physical traits concerning skin color, hair color and follicle shape, eye color, susceptibility and resistance to disease, even the skeletal structure all the way down to shape of the femur. Living together in a certain environment causes certain traits to be shared and selected for in a population. People whose ancestors lived in malarial climates in Africa will have a higher incidence of sickle-cell anemia, because it raises the population’s resistance to the disease.

However, look within a race and you’ll find just as many variations, if you want to. An African American is likely to have very different characteristics from a Masai tribesman, a Navajo will look very different from an Aleut or a Thai (despite the fact that they are/were lumped together in the category of “mongoloid race”), a blond Norweigian looks very different from a dark Italian (although both are “white”), and so on. We notice that certain observeable physical characteristics are common among certain ethinc groups and create mental constructs called “races” that lump together a very disparate group of people in a very murky way. It would actually be less arbitrary and make more sense to lump people together by a more definite and distict phenotype: blood type.

"Hey, Earl! Look at that AB holdin’ that type O’s hand! Hey, you!! Stay away from our type O women!!!

Are you saying that blacks are more likely to be genetically similar to blacks than they are to whites? This is contrary to what I’ve seen argued in the ‘no such thing as race’ threads.

“This idea sounds dangerously close to racism”? Matters of biology? Tut-tut, Derleth.

Actually, I do tend to dislike dark-skinned people as a matter of my own personal prejudice, but that’s an irrational little quirk I always keep to myself–much like my affinity for Muppet movies. I assure the delicate among us today that it in no way affects my daily interactions with other races. I know mine is an unpopular viewpoint these days, but I know we’re all open and caring enough to accept those of differing opinions. Hmm? …If it makes you feel any better, I’m a bisexual female. And everyone knows we’re absolved from mean thoughts.

But back to the issue–yes, what about people of mixed race? As for my friend pulling my leg–I highly doubt it. He’s a first year med student, with no sense of humor, and was as genuinely surprised to learn this as I was. What I really want to know is the rationale behind this. Is there a doctor in the house?

How refreshing!

It’s indisputable that two people most people identify as “black” are more likely to share certain genetic traits than others, skin color being the most obvious. However, that doesn’t translate into saying our cultural concept of race is a biological reality. Read The American Association of Physical Anthropologists Statement on Biological Aspects of Race is a very good dicussion on current scientific thought on race.


So far it’s just a secondhand anecdote posted by an admitted racist…not a matter of biology.

That statement has been vigorously disputed by certain well respected members of this board, especially one who has recently returned from hiatus…I would like to hear their thoughts on this.