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Who We Are--American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI)

Many of the members of ASHI work within clinical laboratories that perform the testing needed to select the optimal donors for patients who need life-saving transplants. These transplants replace poorly functioning organs or replace the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow in patients with diseases like leukemia or lymphoma. Our laboratories work together with transplant coordinators, physicians and surgeons to find the best “histocompatible” match for a patient. These laboratories also help the physician monitor the patient after transplantation to reduce the risks of immune attack of foreign tissue. Other testing carried out within our clinical laboratories helps physicians diagnose autoimmune diseases or identify patients who might have serious side effects if prescribed certain medicines.  Other members of ASHI are medical researchers who study how our immune system fights off infection or cancer or makes us susceptible to autoimmune diseases or allergies.


What Is a “Histocompatible Match”?

Our body is made up of cells that form our organs and tissues. Most cells in our body contain molecules called human leukocyte antigens or HLA. The HLA molecules act as a unique identifier of our cells, just as your name serves as an identifier of you. If cells or an organ from a random person were to be transplanted into our body, our immune system, which protects us from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, would attempt to destroy it.  For this reason, physicians look for an organ or cell donor whose cells or organ don’t look foreign to the patient’s immune system. This is called a “match” and laboratories that help identify a match are called “histocompatibility” laboratories. [“Histo” is a prefix that refers to tissues.]

Finding an HLA match is like finding an ABO blood group match but much more complicated since there are thousands of HLA “types” found in people around the world. Finding a donor who shares HLA molecules with a specific patient is like looking in a phone book for other people who share your name. For some people with common HLA “types” (common names), there might be many individuals who are a match; others with rare HLA types may not find any one who is a match. Since the genes that specify our HLA molecules are inherited from our parents, we are more likely to find matches (or shared names) in individuals with the same ancestry as ourselves. 

Click here for more information on histocompatibility and immunogenetic terms. 

ASHI Promotes Quality in Histocompatibility Testing

The primary goal of our laboratories is to help provide the best care to patients who need our services. Guidelines and standards help us accomplish that goal. Since 1994, ASHI has been approved by the U.S. government to oversee clinical histocompatibility testing laboratories for quality.


UNOS and Be The Match

In the United States, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), a government agency oversees organ, bone marrow, and cord blood donation. It establishes networks for organ and tissue sharing to ensure fair and equitable access to patients in need. In the United States, two government-funded networks facilitate solid organ and blood stem cell/marrow transplantation.

The websites of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and Be The Match provide a wealth of information on transplantation for patients, their families, and the general public. Similar organizations can be found in other countries, such as Canada.


ASHI Contact Information

For more information about ASHI, contact


Contributed by Carolyn K. Hurley PhD, D(ABHI) and Deidre H. Fallon

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