Organ donation has helped save hundreds of thousands of lives; come to think of it, it’s a sort of irony when you consider that when one life is lost, many others could potentially be saved because their organs and tissue can be harvested and transplanted into the bodies of people who would otherwise die. The biggest problem with achieving success in organ donation is that it is very difficult to preserve the organ and keep it “alive” until it can be transplanted into the recipient’s body. Earlier, all organs were harvested from non-heart beating donors. But a few decades ago, it was found that donors who were brain-stem dead provided the best organs because they had oxygenated blood which protected them until they could be cooled.
Now however, another breakthrough in this discipline has ensured that more lives can be saved – scientists at the Sunderland University have been instrumental in pioneering a procedure that allows doctors to cool organs so that they can be preserved for patients waiting for a transplant. This procedure will hopefully reduce the large gap between the demand for and the supply of organs in the donor pool because it allows organs from non-heart beating (NHB) donors to be harvested and successfully transplanted into those who need them. Before the advent of this technique, it was almost impossible to find organs from NHB donors because they (the organs) which are starved of oxygen may be damaged and so, unsuitable for transplantation.
However, the research that is currently being undertaken at the Sunderland University shows that when organs from NHB donors are cooled rapidly, the damage is minimized and the organs are preserved in good condition, allowing them to be transplanted into patients with a reasonable chance of success. Based on this, new medical devices are being developed to cool the organs rapidly. They minimize damage to the tissue and help regenerate it until the organ can start working again and be transplanted into the recipient. Also, various teams are collaborating on finding the right anti-inflammatory drug to assist the cooling of the organ.
This finding will no doubt revolutionize organ donation and transplantation; with more donor organs being made viable for transplant, more lives can be saved.
This article is contributed by Susan White, who regularly writes on the subject of surgical technician schools. She invites your questions, comments at her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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