Bob Aronson

End the Shortage. Clone Organs?

In Ending the Organ Shortage -- Solutions on March 22, 2010 at 12:56 PM

(Bob Aronson, the author of this blog, received a new heart on August 21, 2007)

People who need an organ transplant face two hurdles; one is the limited availability of organs and the second is the possibility that if you do get an organ your body might reject it. 

 

First let us discuss the donor issue.  Since the national Organ Transplant Act of 1984 The United States has depended on the altruistic motive for obtaining organs.  That means we must depend on people becoming organ donors voluntarily through the goodness of their hearts.  Unfortunately despite increasing efforts the gap between those who need organs and the number of organs available is steadily increasing.  Only about 35 percent of Americans are donors and with over 100,000 people on the transplant list thousands are dying each year because of the lack of donor organs.  Many more thousands probably die because, for whatever reason, they never got on the list.  We’ve tried the altruistic method now for twenty-six years and must admit that it simply isn’t working.

 

The second issue is rejection.  Without anti-rejection drugs most of us who have been transplanted would likely reject our new organs and die within a short time of undergoing the surgery unless the new organ came from an identical twin.  Short of that, though, there is always a risk.  Some people die even with anti-rejection drugs like Cyclosporine.  So what’s the solution?  There is one potential remedy that seems to make the most sense despite its potential for extreme controversy and that is cloning.   

 

I’m not talking about cloning human beings for their organs but rather cloning specific organs.  It is called therapeutic cloning as opposed to reproductive cloning.  Engaging in therapeutic cloning would solve the two problems I outlined.  It would greatly diminish or even end the organ shortage and, because we would be using our own cells for the cloning process, our bodies would not reject the organs and there would be no need for anti-rejection drugs which, in turn, would reduce the cost to the patient, insurance companies and the government.  


While cloning human organs is theoretically possible success rates have been very low and very expensive.  But, according to the Human Genome Project,
http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml#organsQ “Scientists hope that one day therapeutic cloning can be used to generate tissues and organs for transplants. To do this, DNA would be extracted from the person in need of a transplant and inserted into an enucleated egg. After the egg containing the patient’s DNA starts to divide, embryonic stem cells that can be transformed into any type of tissue would be harvested. The stem cells would be used to generate an organ or tissue that is a genetic match to the recipient. In theory, the cloned organ could then be transplanted into the patient without the risk of tissue rejection. If organs could be generated from cloned human embryos, the need for organ donation could be significantly reduced.”

 

Experts say that the benefits of organ cloning are almost too numerous to list but I will name just a few.

  • Skin for burn victims
  • Vital organs like hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys could be produced.
  • Bone marrow for those who suffer with leukemia.
  • Genetic therapy for Cystic Fibrosis.
  • We may learn how to turn cells on and off and therefore develop a cure for cancer.
  • We may be able to grow new nerves for spinal cord injuries and perhaps put the wheelchair industry out of business.

Yes, much of this is wistful thinking but researchers say it is possible, that more effectively treating or even curing some diseases may not be that far away.  What do you think?  Is it morally or ethically acceptable to clone organs?  Whatever your position we would all like to hear the rationale for your decision. 

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  On-line registration can be done at http://www.donatelife.net/index.php  Whenever you can, help people formally register.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 50 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  

You are also invited to join Organ Transplantation Initiative (OTI) http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=152655364765710 a group dedicated to providing help and information to donors, donor families, transplant patients and families, caregivers and all other interested parties.  Your participation is important if we are to influence decision makers to support efforts to increase organ donation and support organ regeneration, replacement and research efforts. 

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  1. Very insightful post! I am very much so looking to a future where what you speak of is possible. I have more questions on the subject, if you care to help me find out the answers?

    Take care,
    -Amanda

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  2. I’ll do what I can Amanda. Send them to me.

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    • this is a post but the only was i see this happening in the future is if we somehow find a way to sucessfully clone humans. Then take there organs. Which sound in humain and cruel but i dont see any other way.the only other way would be to clone animals and that would bring more problems into the world like new animal diseases and mutating viruses.

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  3. I thought the article was easy to understand, and I now can comprehend the massive scale of failure that the “altruistic” method in the past 26 years . I think that relying on pure “good hearted people” is wonderful, and there ARE so many of them! God BLESS them!!! The problem is that we have religious and just plain STUBBORN people who find controversy in almost everything ABOUT organ donation.
    So, as much as I would like to say that humanity will persevere and this problem will solve itself, I cannot.
    The “therapeutic cloning” I have heard about seems to make the most sense!! As long as it is not abused in any way, and if it WERE to be abused, severe legal ramifications would need to be in place.
    I am not a highly educated person, these are just my feelings! Forgive me!
    Thanks for a great read Bob, as always!!

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  4. Your feelings are not only important, Ashley, it is critical that people understand how people like you and your husband, who is awaiting a liver, have to llive in a state of anticipation and even fear because there are not enough organs to go around. Most importantly we must convince elected officials and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) how critical it is that they find alternatives to altruistic organ donation. As y ou say, God bless the wonderful people who are donors, but there just aren’t enough of them. We’ve all got to do a better job of telling our stories to motivate people to become donors, now!

    Polls indicate that 90% of Americans believe in organ donation yet fewer than 35% of us are donors. People are good but if they don’t understand the urgency of the situation organ donation becomes one of those, “I’ll get around to it someday,” situations. Someday is now. We must save Peter’s life along with all the others on the transplant list.

    Thank you for your thoughts, they are very important. Don’t downgrade your feelings….I and millions like me, agree with you completely.

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  5. Some very interesting comments on the above blog from people on a Cystic Fibrosis site. I think you’ll find the reading interesting and informative. http://community.livejournal.com/cystic_fibrosis/549141.html

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  6. Yes, I truly agree with you about Therapeutic cloning. There are indeed many benefits from cloning. Major Organs like Kidney, Liver, Lungs, and Hearts are in high demand right now. Wouldn’t it be immorally wrong to deprive many of the right to save their lives. If we cloned organs the black market would diminish. Everyday people in poor countries that are starving and need the money to feed themselves and their families must donate their organs and risk their lives for money. This is a sad buisiness here. However if we allow further research of cloning we will advance and perfect the procedure of cloning.

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  7. [...] End the Shortage. Clone Organs? « Bob’s NewHeartMar 22, 2010 … I’m not talking about cloning human beings for their organs but rather cloning specific organs. It is called therapeutic cloning as opposed to … [...]

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