Keeping pace with science fiction: innovation in transplant treatment

A decade ago, young intern Dr. Mikel Prieto, a transplant surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, said the annual organ donation success rate could be as low as 25%. According to him, now most of the short-term successful organ transplant operations occur in the 80s or 90s.

Although equity and access issues remain, organ transplants have become safer and more regular thanks to major advances in this area.

Take the kidneys, for example.

“Most people don’t realize how successful a kidney transplant is,” Prieto said. “If you come for a kidney transplant, the chances of you returning home with a working transplant range from 98% to 99%.”

Advances in technology and medicine have allowed organs from older donors and organs from hepatitis C or HIV donors to be used in post-transplant disease control, according to Diane Brockmeier, president and CEO of Mid-America Transplant. Donors who test positive for COVID-19 are currently being evaluated for transplant.

In addition, doctors are constantly improving their understanding of the immune system and finding new drugs to prevent organ rejection or to fight common infections that occur in immunocompromised patients, Prieto said.

“The most important thing in transplantation is safety,” said Dr. Manuel Rodriguez-Davalos, director of the liver transplant department at Intermountain Healthcare Children’s Primary Hospital. “We want to be sure that everything we do for our patients will have the right results and have the opportunity to change their lives.”

Improving quality in this area can go a long way. According to the Network for Procurement and Organ Transplantation, from 2015 to 2020, the annual number of organ transplants increased from 30,974 to 39,036. In 2021, mainly due to the stoppage of non-COVID-19 procedures, the number of transplants decreased to 31 363.

According to a 2020 Precedence Research report, the global organ transplant market will grow to over $ 27 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 9.5%. In 2019, the global market was valued at $ 13.1 billion.

This projected increase is largely driven by the growing demand for transplants for the treatment of organ failure and for tissue transplant products, as well as other needs of biotech companies.

The experts noted that of all the innovations in transplantation in recent years, some stand out as the most important.

Hardware perfusion

The timely transportation of organs is a serious problem in transplantation, as many organs are simply too far from the patient’s location to arrive at their destination in a viable state.

To avoid organ loss due to time, machine perfusion was invented to keep donated organs long enough for transplantation, said Rodriguez-Davalos, who is also the medical director for living donor liver transplants at Intermountain Medical Center.

With this method, the organs are kept at a predetermined temperature and the machine maintains a constant blood flow through the organ. The machines can store organs for 12 to 72 hours for delivery, he said.

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