Category Archives: Ending the Organ Shortage — Solutions

Artificial and Bioengineered Organs Can End the Shortage


There are over 117,000 people on the U.S. Transplant list and hundreds of thousands more around the world.  The shortage of transplantable human organs is severe everywhere and it is unlikely the supply will ever even come close to the demand.  To depend on organ donation to save the lives of those who need organs is just plain unrealistic, that’s why we must devote as much time, energy and money as we can to develop alternatives to human organs…and there are many.

In the coming weeks, Bob’s Newheart will explore the alternatives to human organ donation and how soon they might be available.  There is no end to the number of ideas  scientists, engineers and researchers have but it takes time to sort through them, find the money for further research and then send each through some kind of trial.  The time from concept to practical use is usually quite long but there are many alternatives already in the pipeline.   Below you’ll find just a few and we will expand on them in weeks to come.

A Heart Without a Pulse

Heart transplantAs many as five million Americans suffer some form of heart failure, but only about 2,000 hearts a year become available for transplant. The obvious solution to that scarcity is to build an artificial heart, and how hard could that be? The heart’s just a pump, after all, and people have been making pumps since the Mesopotamians invented the shadoof to raise river water 3,000 years before the birth of Christ.

To understand why they still haven’t succeeded, pick up a two-pound barbell and start curling it. Two pounds: nothing. But see how long you can keep it up. Twenty minutes? An hour? Two? Your heart does that all day and all night—35 million beats a year—for as long as you live, without ever taking a rest. Manufacturing a metal and plastic heart capable of beating that way for more than about 18 months has so far proved impossible.  But, now, there’s the possibility of a continuous flow artificial heart and it’s working well in experiments.

Growing Organs in a lab

In June 2011, an Eritrean man entered an operating theater with a cancer-ridden windpipe, People had received windpipe transplants before, but this one was different. His was the first organ of its kind to be completely grown in a lab using the patient’s own cells.

The windpipe is one of the latest successes in the ongoing quest to grow artificial organs in a lab. The goal is deceptively simple: build bespoke organs for individual patients by sculpting them from living flesh on demand. No-one will have to wait on lengthy transplant lists for donor organs and no-one will have to take powerful and debilitating drugs to prevent their immune systems from rejecting new body parts.

Scaffolds for Tissue Repair energy pulsar

Researchers are making use of advances in knowledge of stem cells, basic cells that can be transformed into types that are specific to tissues like liver or lung. They are learning more about what they call scaffolds, compounds that act like mortar to hold cells in their proper place and that also play a major role in how cells are recruited for tissue repair.

Tissue engineers caution that the work they are doing is experimental and costly, and that the creation of complex organs is still a long way off. But they are increasingly optimistic about the possibilities.

Bioartificial Liver

Boston company HepaLife is working on a “bioartificial” liver using a proprietary line of liver stem cells. Once the patient’s blood is separated into plasma and blood cells, a external bioreactor unit with those stem cells inside can reduce levels of toxic ammonia by 75% in less than a day.

Bioartificial Hand

Smarenergy coming from a handtHand is a bioadaptive hand that can actually feel. Its 40 sensors communicate back and forth directly with the brain using nerve endings in the arm. The hand sends its sensory input to the brain, and the brain sends instructions for movement to the hand. The result? It can pick up a plastic water bottle without crushing it, or pour a drink without spills.

BioLung

MC3 BioLung is a soda-can-shaped implantable device that uses the heart’s pumping power to move blood through its filters. It’s designed to work alongside a natural lung, exchanging oxygen from the air with carbon dioxide from the bloodstream. So far, it’s been tried on sheep, where six of the eight animals on the BioLung machine survived for five days. Human trials are expected within the next couple of years.

3D Organ Printing

Organ printing, or the process of engineering tissue via 3D printing, possesses revolutionary potential for organ transplants.

The creation process of artificial tissue is a complex and expensive process. In order to build 3D structures such as a kidney or lung, a printer is used to assemble cells into whichever shape is wanted.

For this to happen, the printer creates a sheet of bio-paper which is cell-friendly. Afterwards, it prints out the living cell clusters onto the paper. After the clusters are placed close to one another, the cells naturally self-organize and morph into more complex tissue structures. The whole process is then repeated to add multiple layers with each layer separated by a thin piece of bio-paper. Eventually, the bio-paper dissolves and all of the layers become one.

Using the patient’s own cells as a catalyst, artificial organs may soon become mainstream practice among treatment centers worldwide. As the health of the nation delves down to record negatives, organ printing may be the establishment’s answer to a number of preventable conditions.

The above alternatives to human organs are but the tip of the iceberg.  Medical science and technology are on the verge of incredible breakhroughs  that will extend life and, at some point, end the need for human organ donation, anti-rejection drugs and maybe even invasive surgery. 

There is no way human organ donation will ever be able to meet the demand for organs.  Even if donation were mandatory there likely would not be enough healthy organs to be able to provide one for everyone who needs one.  That’s why Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative and Bob’s Newheart strongly supports more government and private investment in developing mechanical organs, bio-mechanical organs, organ re-generation, organ cloning and other technologies like 3D printing. 

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

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Bob Aronson Newheart de Bob es un receptor de trasplante cardiaco 2007, el fundador de Facebook, casi 2.500 Iniciativa miembro de Trasplante de Órganos y el autor de la mayoría de los blogs de donación / trasplante.

Puede comentar en el espacio proporcionado o por correo electrónico sus pensamientos a mí en bob@baronson.org. Y – por favor, difundir la palabra acerca de la necesidad inmediata de más donantes de órganos. No hay nada que puedas hacer lo que es de mayor importancia. Si usted convence a una persona de ser donante de órganos y tejidos puede salvar o afectar positivamente a más de 60 vidas. Algunas de esas vidas pueden ser personas que conoces y amas.

Por favor vea nuestro video “Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazón Donante” en http://www.organti.org Este video fue producido para promover la donación de órganos por lo que es libre y no se necesita permiso para su uso.

Si quieres correr la voz acerca de la donación de órganos personalmente, tenemos otra presentación de PowerPoint para su uso libre y sin permiso. Sólo tienes que ir a http://www.organti.org y haga clic en “Life Pass It On” en el lado izquierdo de la pantalla y luego sólo tienes que seguir las instrucciones. Esto no es un espectáculo independiente, sino que necesita un presentador pero es profesionalmente producida y sonido hechos. Si usted decide usar el programa le enviaré una copia gratuita de mi libro electrónico, “Cómo obtener un pie” O “que le ayudará con habilidades de presentación. Sólo tiene que escribir a bob@baronson.org y por lo general usted recibirá una copia del mismo día.

Además … hay más información sobre este sitio de blogs sobre otros donación / trasplante temas. Además nos encantaría que te unas a nuestro grupo de Facebook, la Iniciativa de Trasplante de Órganos Cuantos más miembros que obtenemos mayor será nuestra influencia con los tomadores de decisiones.

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The Future Of Organ Transplants — No Waiting!


Since the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) went into effect in 1984 we have had a shortage of transplantable organs and there doesn’t seem to be any way we will ever not have a shortage as long as we depend on altruistic donation of “natural” organs.
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There are two ways to end the transplantable organ shortage.  One is to prevent organ damage by living healthier lives and the other is to find the means to develop and provide artificial organs which can be mechanical, biological or a combination of the two.
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Popular Science  magazine has been around as long as I can remember and has always fascinated me with its reports on astonishing achievements in science and technology.  The information below comes from one of their issues.  Read these stories with the expectation that a future where there is no waiting for a transplant is possible.  If these reports are accurate the days of organ shortages could be numbered and we will be able to put a stop to the ever increasing number of people who die waiting for an organ transplant. .
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Video: The Doctors Who Made the No-Pulse Heart

              By Jeremiah Zagar                  Posted 02.29.2012 at 2:04 pm                  9
       

Heart Stop Beating is a three-minute documentary film about the no-pulse, continuous-flow artificial heart, which Dan Baum writes about in our Future of Medicine issue. It tells the story of Billy Cohn & Bud Frazier, two visionary doctors from the Texas Heart Institute, who in March of 2011 successfully replaced a dying man’s heart with the device they developed, proving that life was possible without a pulse or a heart beat.

Feature

No Pulse: How Doctors Reinvented The Human Heart

      This 10,000-rpm, no-pulse artificial heart doesn’t resemble an organic heart–and might be all the better for it
              By Dan Baum                  Posted 02.29.2012 at 12:13 pm                  37 Comments
       

Meeko the calf stood nuzzling a pile of hay. He didn’t seem to have much appetite, and he looked a little bored. Every now and then, he glanced up, as though wondering why so many people with clipboards were standing around watching him.

Fourteen hours earlier, I’d watched doctors lift Meeko’s heart from his body and place it, still beating, in a plastic dish. He looked no worse for the experience, whisking away a fly with his tail as he nibbled, demonstrably alive—though above his head, a monitor showed a flatlined pulse. I held a stethoscope to his warm, fragrant flank and heard, instead of the deep lub-dub of a heartbeat, what sounded like a dentist’s drill or the underwater whine of an outboard motor. Something was keeping Meeko alive, but it was nothing like a heart.

Japanese Researchers Create a Pituitary Gland From Scratch in the Lab

              By Clay Dillow                  Posted 11.10.2011 at 11:08 am                  10 Comments
       

The thing about growing working organs in the lab is that the whole enterprise is completely mind-blowing. Yet we just keep doing it, and so we keep blowing minds. The latest: a team of researchers at Japan’s RIKEN Center–the same group who earlier this year engineered a mouse retina that is the most complex tissue ever engineered–have now derived a working pituitary gland from mouse stem cells.

Feature

State of the Bionic Art: The Best Replacements for My Flimsy Human Parts

      In the event of some horrible accident, which bionic parts would I want replacing my own?
              By Dan Nosowitz                  Posted 08.23.2011 at 2:00 pm                  5 Comments
       

We cover biomedical science and engineering a lot, and sometimes I get to wondering: if I was rebuilding my own flimsy, flesh-based body–presumably because I’d had some ghastly dismembering, eviscerating accident–and replacing my limbs, joints, senses, and organs with the most futuristic, top-of-the-line bionics, what would I get? Would I want an artificial lower leg that sprinters use in Olympic-level races, or a motorized leg that can climb a slope as well as a natural leg? I gathered a list of 15 bionic body parts that I’d want to wear, or have installed.

Click to launch a tour of the body parts I’d want in the event of an accident.

A New Artificial Lung Can Breathe Regular Air Rather Than Purified Oxygen

              By Clay Dillow                  Posted 07.26.2011 at 5:06 pm                  10 Comments
       

Researchers in Cleveland have built an artificial lung that is so efficient it can breathe regular air rather than the pure oxygen required by current artificial lungs. The technology makes possible the idea of a man-made lung that is far more portable–and possibly implantable–for the nearly 200 million people suffering from some degree of lung disease.

Lab Builds a Fully Functioning Artificial Small Intestine

              By Rebecca Boyle                  Posted 07.06.2011 at 11:56 am                  5 Comments
       

California researchers have created a tissue-engineered small-scale small intestine in mice, a breakthrough for regenerative medicine and a step toward growing new intestines for humans. The process re-creates all the layers of cells that make up a functioning intestine.

Diabetes Researchers Report New Steps Towards the First Artificial Pancreas

              By Rebecca Boyle                  Posted 06.27.2011 at 1:43 pm                  2 Comments
       

Private companies and hospital researchers are increasingly making strides toward developing an artificial pancreas, supplanting insulin injections and pinpricks for patients with diabetes. Such a system would mimic the functions of a healthy pancreas, delivering insulin and monitoring blood sugar according to a computer’s careful calculations.

This Lung-On-A-Chip Is The First Lab-Ready Mini-Organ to Be Used in Drug Research

              By Victor Zapana                  Posted 10.08.2010 at 11:15 am                  5 Comments
       

This ersatz lung, no bigger than a multivitamin, could represent a new pharmaceutical testing method. On it, researchers have created an artificial alveolus, one of the sacs in the lungs where oxygen crosses a membrane to enter the body’s blood vessels. A polymer sheet that stands in for the membrane is in the blue strip. On one side of the sheet, blood-vessel cells mimic a capillary wall; on the other, lung-cancer cells mimic lung epithelial cells.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers

You Could Die Today! Will You Bury Your Organs Or Donate Them?


What if tomorrow or even today was your last day to be alive?  It’s possible.  No one knows when their time will come.  We start dying upon birth and could die young from a variety of medical or accidental causes. That’s why it is so important to become an organ donor now, right now.  Just go to www.donatelife.net and do it. 

There are three reasons you should become an organ donor right now:

  1. You could die today or tomorrow and if you are not a donor your organs could be buried with you.  It happens 20,000 times a year in the U.S. 
  2. You could find out that you or a loved one needs a transplant
  3. You are a compassionate human being who wants to save lives and you understand the urgency.

My blogs are about living, about saving lives and about how the living can help do that but sometimes a writer has to provide some shock value in order to get people’s attention.  So here’s the shock.  You should become an organ donor soon because you could die soon, very soon. Stand by…there’s more shock to come.

You’ve all heard the numbers 114,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list with only 28,000 transplants done each year. Estimates indicate about 20 people die every day while waiting for organs.  Becoming an organ donor is an urgent issue but for most potential donors it is only urgent for the would-be recipient but consider this… you or a loved one could be the next patient in line waiting for an organ transplant. 

While 9 out of 10 Americans support organ donation, only 38% of US driver’s license or ID card holders are registered as organ donors, according to the 2009 Organ Donor Report Card. Overall, only 1 in 3.75 people in the US are registered organ donors. And in 2008, for the first time in at least 20 years, the number of both living and deceased donors declined over the previous year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).

None of us expect to die any time soon so we approach organ donation with a, “What’s the rush” attitude.  “They can’t take my organs until I die and I’m going to be around for a while so I’ll become a donor when I get around to it.”  But…what if you die before you get around to it?  Here are some startling odds.

All figures below are for U.S. residents.as of 2005, the latest year this data was available.

Your chance of dying of any of the following                                                   Lifetime Odds

Heart Disease                                                                                                        1-in-5

Cancer                                                                                                                    1-in-7

Stroke                                                                                                                     1-in-23

Accidental Injury                                                                                                   1-in-36

Motor Vehicle Accident*                                                                                      1-in-100

Intentional Self-harm (suicide)                                                                            1-in-121

Falling Down                                                                                                         1-in-246

Assault by Firearm                                                                                               1-in-325

Fire or Smoke                                                                                                        1-in-1,116

Natural Forces (heat, cold, storms, quakes, etc.)                                             1-in-3,357

Electrocution*                                                                                                       1-in-5,000

Drowning                                                                                                               1-in-8,942

Air Travel Accident*                                                                                           1-in-20,000

 SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; American Cancer Society; National Safety Council; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; World Health Organization; USGS; Clark Chapman, SwRI; David Morrison, NASA; Michael Paine, Planetary Society Australian Volunteers

 Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke and Accidents claim the most people every year.  If you really believe in organ donation becoming a donor right now is the only logical thing to do.                                                                                                              

I hope everyone who reads this blog lives for a very, very long time but I also hope you recognize that there is no time to spare in becoming an organ donor.  My donor was only 30 years old when he died.  I’m sure he expected to live a lot longer than that but fate is unpredictable so why not arrange now to save some lives.  If you wait you could not only lose your own life but cause others to die because your organs were buried with You.                                                                                               

It is so easy to become a donor.  You can do it by going to www.donatelife.net , on Facebook or you can get free organ donation Apps for your cell phone, pads and computers too.  One is http://www.appbrain.com/app/donor-register/com.sam.donorregister  I understand that Blackberry and I-phone have similar apps.

Please understand the urgency. Please go to your computer right now and sign up and then be sure to tell your family, your physician and your faith leader if you have one and…when you renew your driver’s license make sure you check the organ donor designation.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart  is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s 1800 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. 

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show, it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound.  If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills.  Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Not Enough Organs — The Salamander Solution


The organ shortage is real here at home and around the world.   People aren’t becoming organ and tissue donors in the numbers that are necessary to drastically cut or eliminate the deaths caused by the lack of organs.  Each year for the last several years there have been around 28,000 transplants in the U.S., that number has remained static, Unfortunately the number of people who need organs continues to grow and right now that number is approaching 114,000.

In the United States we obtain organs for transplantation via what is called the “altruistic” method or “opt in.”   That means we depend on the goodness of people to become organ donors.  The problem is that less than 50 percent of Americans ever get around to becoming donors and the result is that from 6000 to 7,000 people die every year because there aren’t enough organs to go around.  Obviously something has got to change, soon!

There are many alternatives to altruism including mandatory organ donation, compensation or incentives or a combination of many.  I have long been a supporter of “Presumed consent” (PC) which is the reverse of altruism.  Under PC you are automatically considered a donor unless you “opt out.”

The problem we face with any of these proposed changes is that it would take some kind of government action to force a change and my political instincts tell me that the country just isn’t in the mood to hear the government or a bureaucracy tell them they “must” do something even if it saves lives.  Furthermore there isn’t even a whiff of a scent of a move to change the system.  Once in a while a state makes some changes but we need a massive federal change.   If PC were introduced as a possible change and it is the most likely of all the alternatives, it would take a very long time if ever to make it the law of the land.  And…even if such a change had congressional and presidential approval and endorsement I am positive that there would be an almost immediate court challenge that would delay implementation indefinitely.

Presumed consent isn’t going to happen in this country.  We can keep pushing for it but I just don’t see it happening.  The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) has been on the books since 1984 and even though the gap between organ supply and demand continues to widen there is no widely popular movement in congress or at the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to change the system. There’s been talk, but no action and it is unlikely there will be any.  So where does that leave us.  Actually it leaves us with a lot of hope.

Some amazing things are happening in the area of regenerative medicine that could literally knock your socks off.  At the very heart of regenerative medicine are — the salamander and the newt.   They belong to the same amphibian family and they have the amazing ability to regrow organs.  I recently saw some time lapse photography of a salamander that had lost a leg and slowly over the period of several days it grew back (it’s in the link to the Atala video).  Researchers say, “If Salamanders can do it, why not humans?”  We’ll talk more about salamanders and newts later.

Anthony Atala is the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  He says, “Every thirty seconds a patient dies of diseases that could be prevented with tissue or stem cell replacement.”

That’s an amazing claim but then he is doing some pretty amazing things at Wake Forest. The first ever lab-grown organ, a bladder, to be implanted in a human was engineered by his team.  Additionally the team is developing fabrication technology that can “print” human tissue on demand.  Note I said “print” — the tissue will actually come out of a printer, similar to the one you have at home or in your office.  This link will take you to a video of Anthony Atala that is fascinating. http://tinyurl.com/7ctyr7v

But – as the commercial says, “Wait…there’s more.”  There is so much going on in regenerative medicine that I can only touch on a few things here but enough, I hope, to get you as excited as I am about the potential for saving lives.

Stem cells are said to be the very basis of life. Unlike cells of the skin or the brain, which have narrowly defined functions, the possibilities with stem cells are endless.   Given the proper setting, stem cells can develop into specialized cells so in theory they could replace those cells we lose when we age or get sick.  They are known as “pluripotent.”

Five years ago in 2007, some mice with sickle cell anemia were cured by infusing them with cells created from their own skin and modified by gene-splicing techniques so that they no longer contained the sickle-cell gene.  While it worked on mice it can’t be used on people because of the potential for the cells to trigger cancer but…it’s a beginning.

Last year a private U.S. company launched a cell therapy trial that could repair spinal injuries. It uses some special cells made from embryonic stem cells.  Four patients have been treated but no results as of yet.

In Scotland a trial to treat stroke was launched last year, using special nerve cells.  The company involved says it is evaluating the safety of the treatment which has been given to several patients in very low doses.

While all of the trials are in the earliest stages at least we are having trials in humans.  You can be sure that in the next few years more trials will start and we’ll find out the true potential of stem cell therapy.

Some of the advancements in the regenerative medicine are already being used.  Recently CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reported on a man who re-grew a severed fingertip.  According to Andrews possibilities abound for creating an organ in the lab that can be transplanted into a patient without risk of rejection. It sounds like science fiction, he says, but it’s not. You can watch the full report here.  http://tinyurl.com/6wqmhay

And, finally, the story of cardiologist Mark Keating, a Harvard professor who is really into salamanders and newts and he’s spending all of his time studying them in hopes of uncovering their secret to regeneration.  Even if we could only partly regenerate an organ we’d be better off.  According to Dean Li, Keating’s business partner, “Patients with kidney failure need just 10 percent of their cells back and they can go off dialysis.”

But the small piece of kidney is less than the tip of the iceberg.  Hydra Biosciences, Keating’s Cambridge, Massachusetts Company, is also looking at the pancreas, skin, central nervous system, veins, joints, and eyes.

You can read more about Keating and his company here http://tinyurl.com/rnqm

While there is a considerable body of work taking place in regenerative medicine, there is also progress being made with artificial organs.  The exciting news here is the confluence of mechanical and biological research.  The result being organs that are a little of each.

Here are some headlines about technological medical advances:

  • A 10,000-rpm, no-pulse artificial heart  that doesn’t resemble an organic heart
  • A team of Japanese researchers who earlier this year engineered a mouse retina that is the most complex tissue ever engineered–have now derived a working pituitary gland from mouse stem cells.
  • Researchers in Cleveland have built an artificial lung that is so efficient it can breathe regular air rather than the pure oxygen required by current artificial lungs.
  • Impressive strides are being made toward developing an artificial pancreas, supplanting insulin injections and pinpricks for patients with diabetes

You can read the full stories and get information on other advancements as well at http://tinyurl.com/7t33pon

As you can see, there’s a lot going on.

So…back to my point.  I believe that we as Americans should take the following positions.

1). we should support and promote altruistic organ donation to the fullest extent of our abilities.  There is no nobler cause.

2)  We should encourage decision makers, policy leaders, elected officials, everyone in a position of power to support and fund the most promising scientific and technological possibilities as an investment in our future.

One certain way to control health the health care costs that threaten to bankrupt us is to have a healthier population.  Medical science and technology can lead us there if our political leaders will not only allow them to but also support their financial and other needs. .

I believe that by becoming a healthier nation, we’ll be able to put a lot of our economic problems away for good.  The ramifications of what these scientists are doing in regenerative medicine go well beyond providing transplants for people who need them.  What they are doing strikes at the soul of who we are as a nation and if we survive or succeed.  I prefer success.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

 Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

 Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Not Enough Transplantable Organs, Thousands Die…Options for Change


There will come a time when organ/tissue/blood donors are no longer needed.  Advancements in mechanical devices, therapeutic cloning (duplication of organs not people) and regenerative methods will negate the need for human donation.  But, that’s not going to happen any time soon and until it does we are going to have a shortage that results in thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Twenty eight years ago, The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) was approved.  Sponsored by Democrat Representative Al Gore and Republican Senator Orin Hatch the act outlawed the sale of human organs and provided for the establishment of a volunteer (Altruistic) system of organ donation in the United States. NOTA  also authorized the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to make grants for the planning and establishment of Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs); and established the formation of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). 

That was 28 years ago.  Since then thousands of lives have been saved by organ transplants but the number of available organs has always, from the very beginning, lagged behind the number of people who need them.

As of right now there are 112,640 waiting list candidates but so far this year there have been only 23,745 transplants done and only 11,711 donors (data from UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing www.unos.org ). The numbers are really all the evidence we need to show that the altruistic system is not working.  Each year about 6,000 people die while waiting for a transplant.  Thousands of other Americans never even get on the list because of a lack of access to specialized care or because they can’t afford a transplant. 

While many find this to be an intolerable situation neither DHHS nor UNOS seem interested in making any change to the system.  From time to time they will assemble “Ethics” panels to study ways to augment or change it but the answer is always the same, “Unethical.” One can easily ask, “What is ethical about letting all these people die?  How can you possibly look at these numbers and say, “Presumed consent and/or some kind of compensation system for donors, is unethical?”  Surely something can be designed that will provide the needed number of organs and still be an ethical practice.

I recognize that the highly skilled, educated professionals who make these “Ethical” decisions are faced with a double edged sword 1) changing the system could produce negative publicity and affect their reputations and perhaps some funding and 2) the ethics of allowing people to die.  Given those conditions it still seems that allowing people to die is more unethical than making some well-considered changes that would harm no one and benefit many. And…the situation is only going to get worse because modern technology is allowing people to live longer which is adding to the list of people waiting for transplants.

Twenty eight years of letting people die.  About 168,000 people are gone because the Ivory tower thinkers refuse to or are afraid to make a change.  Had changes been made in the past many of the 168,000 casualties would be alive today and who knows what contributions they might have made to our society.   

As I noted in the first paragraph, in the long term we probably won’t need to have a donor system but it will be many years before any of those means become commonly practical.  So we’re stuck with the old question, “What do we do to narrow or eliminate the gap between available organs and those who need them?”

My research indicates that while there are not a plentitude of options to consider there are some and they include:

 

  1. 1.    Mandatory donation (anyone who dies is automatically a donor, no exceptions)
  2. 2.    The LifeSharers approach, (you can only receive an organ if you are a donor)
  3. 3.    Presumed consent (You are automatically a donor unless you opt out)
  4. 4.    Some sort of compensation plan for donors and/or their families.
  5. 5.    A combination of presumed consent and a payment system

 Let us tackle mandatory donation first.  On its surface it sounds harsh and like a product out of an HG wells book.  It is harsh and probably unacceptable because of its dictatorial overtones.  Americans don’t seem to like anything that is mandatory whether it is good for them or not, so mandatory donation is unlikely to receive enthusiastic support.

 Aaron Spital, and James Stacey Taylor (Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York; and Department of Philosophy, College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey) have written a persuasive paper on the subject of mandatory organ donation. http://tinyurl.com/6wavm4b. Their proposal is simple:  

 ”We propose that the requirement for consent for cadaveric organ recovery be eliminated and that whenever a person dies with transplantable organs, these be recovered routinely. Consent for such recovery should be neither required nor sought.”   

The two researchers go on to say,

“We believe that the major problem with our present cadaveric organ procurement system is its absolute requirement for consent. As such, the system’s success depends on altruism and voluntarism. Unfortunately, this approach has proved to be inefficient. Despite tremendous efforts to increase public commitment to posthumous organ donation, exemplified most recently by the US Department of Health and Human Services sponsored Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative many families who are asked for permission to recover organs from a recently deceased relative still say no. The result is a tragic syllogism: nonconsent leads to nonprocurement of potentially life-saving organs, and nonprocurement limits the number of people who could have been saved through transplantation; therefore, nonconsent results in loss of life.”  

While it is difficult to disagree from a purely logical standpoint, emotions run high on issues like this and it is unlikely to get approval from the American Public.

The second option listed is the approach where registered donors would be offered organs first, regardless of how ill other patients on the list might be.  In the U.S. there is one organization, LifeSharers, that has promoted that idea for several years and while they have nearly 15,000 members (http://lifesharers.org/) they have had virtually no impact. In order for the concept to work, they would have to sign up just about every single American…that’s not likely to happen and as far as we know, no LifeSharers member has yet been a donor to another LifeSharers member.  To be fair, however, the nation of Israel has adopted a form of the LifeSharers program but it’s still too early to make any assessments on its success or acceptance. 

Most people who object to the “Donors” first concept say it is because it deviates from the practice of offering organs (provided there is a match) to the sickest patient first.  Their program would offer organs to members first and then if there was no match, the organ could go to the sickest person.  Many people object because despite our great national communication system, there are still millions of people who don’t understand the donation/transplantation process, haven’t heard about it, didn’t know you could register to be a donor or, because of a multitude of myths, think they can’t be donors. Despite the honorable efforts by LifeSharers founder Dave Undis, the concept is not being seriously considered by the U.S. transplant community.  Additionally LifeSharers growth has been slow indicating limited acceptance by the public.  You can learn more about LifeSharers at http://www.lifesharers.org/

The third option is presumed consent and if any option is ever approved in the United States or even some of the states, this will likely be the one. Currently under our altruistic program people “opt in” by signing a donor card and having “Donor’ placed on their driver’s license or other official state ID card. Presumed consent is the opposite.  It assumes that everybody wants to be a donor and so you would “Opt out” if you don’t want to be a donor and likely would carry a card that says “Not a donor.”  You can learn more about presumed consent at http://tinyurl.com/7mcjoez.

In countries where presumed consent is in effect, (Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Greece, and Singapore) the opt out rate has been around 2% which means that 98% of the eligible population would be organ donors as opposed to under 50% in the United States where we have the opt In program. That’s a big difference.  The great leveler, however, may be that the countries with opt out as their system still ask family members, at the time of the donors death, for their approval. If they refuse the organ is not recovered. 

The most politically sensitive of all the issues is the outright sale of organs.   At this point I know of no serious effort in the U.S. that would change our laws to allow a person to sell his/her organs on the open market.  It is not realistic to think that any U.S. regulatory or government agency would even consider the idea.  Strangely, In Iran of all places, it is legal to sell organs and a healthy kidney retails for about $6,000.

Iran legalized living non-related donation (LNRD) of kidneys in 1988.  The Iranian government regulates and funds the donation/transplantation process and compensates donors for their organs. A third-party group arranges contact between donors and recipients (much like U.S. Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs). In addition to payment from the government, donors receive free health insurance.  The transplant recipient benefits from highly subsidized immunosuppression support. Iranian law also provides for charitable organizations to pay the cost of transplants for people who can’t afford them.  Here’s an interesting twist, though.  It is illegal for the medical teams or any ‘middleman’ like our OPOs to receive payment.  Within a year of being implemented the number of transplants in Iran almost doubled.

 They system seems to be working in Iran and it certainly could work here…it isn’t as though we aren’t selling things similar to organs.  Currently in the United States it is legal to sell yourself to become a surrogate mother and everyday people are paid for sperm, eggs and hair so why not organs.  The Iran concept is certainly an option but polls continually indicate it is not a very popular one.

 There are some variations on the “Payment” theme that might be attractive to the American people.   We could consider a system that “compensates” rather than pays donors or their families.  For example, a living kidney donor does not have to pay for the surgery to remove the donated kidney nor does that person have to pay for any of the medical care surrounding the operation those costs are absorbed by the recipients insurance coverage.  The donor’s, though, often accrue other expenses like travel to the city in which the recipient lives, lodging, food and time away from work, which could be significant especially if there are any surgical complications.  A very good case could be made for compensation for these expenses.

There are other considerations as well. Dr. Sally Satel a Psychiatrist and a kidney transplant recipient who is also a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute has written and spoken extensively on the subject of compensation, “The solution to this lethal paternalism, as I and others have argued, is not to create a direct exchange of cash for kidneys, but for Congress to let donors accept a carefully devised and regulated government benefit — perhaps a tax credit, a contribution to a retirement plan or early access to Medicare.” 

It would not be a huge stretch to extend Dr. Satel’s ideas to families of deceased donors while also covering funeral expenses even providing some help with college tuition for their children, subsidized prescriptions or even subsidized health care insurance. You can read more on Dr. Satel’s thoughts by going to http://tinyurl.com/yabluu3 .

The final option that could be considered is a combination of presumed consent and a form of compensation that follows the lines described by Dr.Satel. 

The point of this blog is to just get people thinking.  The present system isn’t doing the job and never will despite heroic efforts at increasing organ donation, there just aren’t enough donors.  That we must change if we are to stop the dying, is a given.  Determining what that change should be is what is so incredibly difficult. 

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Consider what I’ve written, discuss it with friends, join discussions on Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative and comment in the space provided here.  When you have decided what you think is the best solution, you should contact your elected representative or U.S. Senator and let them know your feelings.  Change has to begin somewhere, why not with you?

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or  positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our two brand new video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

Also…there  is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues.  Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater  our clout with decision makers.

Too Few Organ Donors — Inadvertent Terrorism


Each day 19 people die because there are not enough transplantable human organs to fill the need.  The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) which coordinates all transplants in America maintains a list of people who need life-saving transplants.  As of today, January 2, 2012 the numbers are:

Waiting list candidates                                 112,702

Transplants January – Sept. 2011              21,354

Donors January – Sept. 2011                       10,558

Right now, as you read this a patient, maybe a child, is near death.  She needs a heart but there won’t be one. As the electronic monitors beep and chirp, the family is devastated, inconsolable in the frustration over the lack of organ donors and the imminent death of their loved one.  The best medical care in the world is at their fingertips but they are helpless without an organ donor.  The patients vital signs are dropping more rapidly now, the Doctors aren’t holding out much hope.

Right now as you read this, another patient not too far away has already been declared brain dead as the result of an auto accident.  He is surrounded by a grieving family.  It is not known if the patient is or wanted to be an organ donor.  The family is considering a request to donate his organs but the decision must be made soon and they don’t know what to do, their loved one never told them of his wishes.  Through tears and indescribable grief they discuss, they argue and then decline.  Both patients die.

Each year Americans bury or cremate more than 20,000 transplantable organs – 20.000.  Surveys continually indicate that over 90 percent of Americans approve of organ donation but in one of the greatest mysteries ever, only 46 percent actually make the commitment to do so.  This inaction, this procrastination is causing people to die, families to grieve and patients who are awaiting transplants to live their lives in absolute terror.  People who are not organ donors are not evil, they are not bad, they just don’t understand that their lack of action causes terror among patients as great as that caused by the real terrorists of the world.

Most people who aren’t donors, “Just haven’t gotten around to it.”  After all, there’s no rush for them.  Organs are recovered after a person dies and most potential donors are in pretty good health.  The problem is that the patients who need the organs are not in good health.  Everyone who is on that UNOS list mentioned earlier, is dying.  Without a transplant they will die.  Period. End of story.

Well, let’s make the donation process really simple, so simple you can do it from home, your office, on your I-pad or Kindle in your doctor’s waiting room anywhere.  You don’t even have to get up.  Just go to www.donatelife.net and follow the instructions then tell your family what you have done.  It only takes minutes.  Then make very sure they clearly understand that you want to be an organ donor.  “That means when I die I want the medical people to take as much of my tissue and as many of my organs as they need to help save or enhance the lives of others.”  Those are my distinct wishes please respect them should the time come.

That’s the first step to saving lives by helping to increase the number of donors.  The second step, just in case you like this cause and want to do more, is to spread the word to convince others to do the same.  “So,” you say, “How do I do that, how do I spread the word?”  Here are ten easy tips, I’m sure that if you think real hard you might be able to come up with ten more.

  1. 150 words is about a minute’s speaking time.  Write out about 150 words on why organ donation is important to the donor…the donor and then post it everywhere you can think of on the internet.
  2. Call your local Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) and volunteer to speak on behalf of donation.
  3. Buy the green “Donate life” wristband at www.donatelife.net and wear it every day.  If someone admires it give it to them and ask them to wear it.  What’s a few bucks to save  some lives?
  4. Ask your pastor to give a sermon on organ donation…offer to help gather the information for him/her.
  5. Write a letter to the editor…actually send it to every editor you can think of.
  6. When some radio talk show host least expects it…call about the importance of organ donation
  7. Offer to speak to a local service club about donation/transplantation issues (Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions etc).
  8. Add a short note about organ donation to the signature of every email you send “Did you know that one organ/tissue donor can save or positively affect up to 60 lives?”
  9. Talk to a public school class about donation/transplantation
  10. Start a blog…it’s really easy.  Just Google “free blog sites” and go for it.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or  positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart.” Just go to www.organti.org and click on the title.  This video was produced to py romote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for it’s use.  You’ll also find other useful information on this web site about other donation/transplantation issues.

We would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers and the more clout we have the more likely it  is that we’ll be able to increase not only organ donation but the many alternatives that science and technology people are working on.

60% of People Who Smoke Will Die From it — But You Can Quit!


Besides causing cancer and any one of a number of other health problems, smoking can destroy organs like the heart and lungs and can seriously damage or destroy others. 

There are about 110,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants and there are not enough donor organs, so each year thousands of our loved ones, friends and neighbors die waiting. The number of organ donors is not increasing fast enough to end the shortage any time soon so one way of dealing with the crisis is to prevent the need for organ transplants.  One way to do that is to quit damaging our organs by quitting smoking. 

From time to time I will be publishing blogs from guest writers.  The following post was written by Dr. Michael Burke, Ed.D, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Program Coordinator at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.  Dr. Burke is a highly respected expert in the field of tobacco addiction and smoking cessation. 

There is nothing that is healthier for a person who smokes than to stop. Within a short time after one stops smoking, lung function and circulation improve, risk of heart attack and stroke diminish, and the likelihood of acquiring 14 different cancers begins to drop. 

Symptoms from illnesses as different as diabetes, sleep apnea, and Crohn’s disease get better after a person stops smoking.  Stopping before surgery significantly improves surgical outcomes through less infection, better wound healing and bone mending.  Stopping smoking leads to less skin wrinkles and better erectile function, and the list goes on and on. Although people usually underestimate how dangerous smoking is, nearly everybody knows that it is unhealthy.  However, about 1 in 5 Americans continue to smoke, and each day in the US, as many people die from smoking as three fully loaded 747’s crashing.   Worldwide 100 million people died from smoking in the 20th century.  Predictions are that one billion people will die from smoking tobacco this century.  So why doesn’t everyone quit? 

One reason is that cigarettes are quite addicting.   A cigarette delivers nicotine to the brain more quickly than a hypodermic needle.  It is probably the best drug delivery device ever created by man.  It delivers volatile high dose nicotine that, for some people, causes physical changes to a part of the brain that is responsible for pleasure, attention and stress.  I say ‘for some people’.

Smoking affects people differently.  Stopping smoking is actually physically harder for some people than it is for others.  The differences are in large part due to genetics. To shed light on these genetic differences a group at the Mayo Clinic is, oddly enough, studying Zebra fish. http://discoverysedge.mayo.edu/zebrafish-genetics/ Dr. Steve Ekker’s group has discovered two genes that make the fish more reactive to nicotine.  If exposed to nicotine when in the larvae stage Zebra fish bred to have these two specific genes will become sensitized to the nicotine.   Later in life they will move and dart more quickly in the water when nicotine is added to the tank.  However, if these genes are ‘knocked out’ the fish won’t become sensitized to nicotine and then later will not react when exposed to nicotine.   It is wonderful to have a geneticist with a sense of humor.  Dr. Ekker’s group named the nicotine activating genes Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis after those two Hollywood stars whose style of smoking became iconic.

Although it is a more complex story in human beings, some people have Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis genes.  These people experience a heightened reward from cigarettes when they first start smoking and more intense craving and withdrawal when they try to stop.  Too often these people feel ashamed, think that they just have less willpower, or think that they just don’t want to stop badly enough. Instead these folks can stop, they just need more tools and ammunition.

I once treated a woman, a nurse, from Bayonne NJ.  She was clearly a strong lady.  My dad would have admirably described her as a ‘tough old broad’.  “People tell me I’m weak, that I should just quit smoking” she said “But, when I go half a day without a cigarette, I’m on my knees in tears I just feel so awful”.  “I’m not weak” she went on.  “I left a bad man, raised three kids, worked sometimes two jobs, bought my own home, and sent all three kids to college.  I’m not weak! What is it about this that is so hard?” she asked me.  She was most likely genetically set to have a more difficult time stopping, and she needed treatment to match that extra difficulty.   We provided treatment and one year later she was still tobacco free.

Many people try and stop ‘cold-turkey’.  That’s good if it works.  However, less than 5% of the people who use this method are successful at six months.  Counseling and medications have been proven to significantly increase the chances of successfully stopping smoking.  You can learn more about how counseling works by viewing the short video at this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EDaA26unVw  

Your health care provider may provide counseling or they may have a Tobacco Treatment Specialist in the office or local area.  Professional help is also available through a telephone Quit line.  Every state in the US, and province in Canada have one that can be accessed through calling 1800 QUIT NOW.   One online resource that many people find helpful is www.becomeanex.org.  Mayo Clinic also has a Residential Treatment Program – an 8 day program that works for people who have ‘tried everything’.  http://ndc.mayo.edu

There are seven ‘first line’ medications that have been proven to be safe and effective for helping people stop smoking.  Five are nicotine replacement products and two are pills available by prescription: varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban).  

There is too much confusion about nicotine replacement.  Nicotine replacement medications have saved many lives and can save many more. Nicotine is not the ingredient in cigarettes that causes health problems.  Smoking health problems are caused by 4,000 other chemicals that people ingest when they smoke.  Some of these chemicals are natural to tobacco others are added by the tobacco industry.  Nicotine replacement helps manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms safely, while eliminating exposure to the awful toxins in tobacco.  We encourage people to take enough of these medicines for long enough to stop smoking.

People who smoke can also talk to their health care provider about two other medications varenicline and bupropion.  These medications are proven to help people safely stop smoking.  Like most medications, there are some potential side effects and you should talk to your health care provider before taking these medications.   But remember, if the tobacco industry had to list the side effects from smoking, it would probably fill a telephone book.  Cigarettes are the only product that will kill over 60% of the people who use it in the way it is intended.   Stopping smoking, by any means necessary, is the healthy choice.

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. 

End the Shortage. Clone Organs?


(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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