2100 – A new Regeneration
Healthy organs are in short supply. In America alone, there are currently more than 100,000 people waiting for an organ transplant, that’s equivalent to 138 airplanes needed to seat the number of people awaiting transplants. Every month 2,100 new patients are added to the waiting list and each day 18 of them die waiting for a transplant that does not happen due to the shortage of organs.
Over the last 10 years the number of patients needing organs has doubled whilst the number of organ donation has remained the same, due to the lack of organ donors. It is estimated that around 10,000 – 14,000 people who die each year meet the organ criteria but less than half of that number are actual organ donors.
In a recent study it was found that 96% of people believe that donating organs is the right thing to do whilst 4% believed it was unethical, it also showed that only 30% of people in America had joined the organ donor register, leaving a staggering 70% unregistered, yet if an organ transplant was needed 96% of these people said they would accept the transplant.
1 donor can save 8 lives and help benefit up to 50 people, on average 79 organ transplants happen every day yet the transplant waiting list is still ever increasing from the number of donors, it currently stands at –
White – 45%
Black – 29%
Hispanic – 18%
Asian – 7%
When donating organs the donor can be living or deceased, whilst tissues and blood can be stored in banks, organs must be transplanted within a matter of hours after being removed from the donor. Organs can live outside of the body for different times –
Hearts – 4 – 6 hours
Lungs – 4 – 6 hours
Kidneys – 36 – 48 hours
Livers – 12 – 15 hours
The organs that can be transplanted from a deceased donor are the heart, intestine, liver, lungs, pancreas and kidneys and the tissues that can be transplanted are veins, heart valves, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, middle ear, corneas, skin and bone. The organs that can be transplanted from the living are the kidney and a small portion of the lung, pancreas, intestine and liver, tissues that can be donated are the eye and skin.
The median national waiting time varies between organs –
Hearts – 113 days
Lungs – 141 days
Livers – 361 days
Kidneys – 1,219 days
Pancreas – 260 days
Intestine – 159 days
A study showed that eye transplants restored vision with a 95% success rate and people with fatal lung conditions had an 80% success rate. Although, the study also found that over 20% of people in need of an intestine transplant would die whilst waiting and that 1 in 10 people who need a new heart are under the age of 18.
It is important that the donor and patient are closely matched otherwise the patient’s immune system may reject the transplant. However, the future looks bright, scientists in America have been working on a new kind of solution, ‘bioartificial’ organs grown from the patient’s own cells.
Over the last 20 years scientists can now grow cells, it works by extracting cartilage and cells from the patient and placing them onto a synthetic scaffold where they are left in incubation to grow for a time period of 6 – 8 weeks. It is aimed to help people who are in need of transplants, in particular injured soldiers, 30 people have received lab-grown bladders and one person has received a new windpipe, all are now living normal and healthy lives since this operation.
Scientist now want to push this medical breakthrough further, solid organs with lots of blood vessels are harder to grow, such as kidneys or livers but they are currently working on 22 different organs and tissues including ears, hearts, lungs and liver. Scientists are also working with the axolotl; an amphibian that can regenerate lost limbs such as limbs, jaws, tail, spinal cord and skin without scarring, they can even receive transplanted organs from other individuals and accept them without rejection, the challenge scientists now face is to extract this cell structure and if successful it has the potential to help millions of people suffering from severe burns, loss of limbs and even cancer.
Growing a copy of the patient’s organ may not always be possible if the organ is too damaged by cancer, but a solution to this might be a stem cell bank, the stem cells can be collected without harming human embryos, therefore without causing political controversy, and can then be coaxed into becoming a hear, liver or other organ cells. A bank of 100,000 stem cell samples would have enough genetic variety to match nearly any patient, thus allowing surgeons to order organs to be grown when needed without having to put the patient through many weeks, months and possibly years of waiting for the perfect match.