Animal programs

The future of transplantation with animal organs and machines

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Living organ donors are becoming an increasingly important part of the organ procurement process and now animal organs and machines that tune fringe organs can play a role.

Dianne Milano from West Haven donated part of her liver to a friend in desperate need in 2019. When she heard about a complete stranger who needed a kidney, she signed up again to become a living organ donor.

“I cried. It’s just a wonderful feeling. It’s nothing like I’ve ever felt before. It’s a good feeling knowing you’ve done something for someone. I hope that we’ll be on the right list when my day comes,” Milano said, reflecting on his latest living organ donation of a kidney.

Hartford Hospital’s head of surgical transplantation, Dr Glyn Morgan, said the advantage of the living donor is time, without having to wait for an organ from a deceased donor to become available.

“Right now in our center, patients are receiving transplants from deceased donors who typically wait four to five years,” Glyn said.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed Hartford Hospital’s heart transplant program, with 40 transplants performed last year.

The future of organ transplantation has new possibilities on the horizon, including the use of animal organs in humans and techniques such as perfusion, which gives an organ a kind of focus. point outside the body.

In recent months, doctors have successfully transplanted a pig’s heart and kidneys into humans. All the organs have been genetically modified so that they are not rejected and also to keep their size small to match the size of a human.

The need is great, and the field of xenotransplantation could provide a much-needed organ supply to those desperately waiting on lists.

There are now 90,000 people who need a new kidney, but fewer than 25,000 transplants are performed each year, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network. The increase in diabetes and high blood pressure has made the situation worse.

“Basically what we’re doing is taking organs from animals and genetically modifying them so they’re able to trick our immune system into thinking they’re human or at least humanized,” Morgan said. .

OrganOx metra, an organ infusion machine (Credit: OrganOx)

The Yale Organ Transplant Center uses a machine called OrganOx to enhance donated organs that were previously not healthy enough to even be transplanted. They have been a leader in this evolving field with organ perfusion.

“We took organs that we knew were impossible to use, put them on a drip, and in 12 hours, 24 hours, seeing an incredible turnaround in the organ looked and worked perfectly,” Yale Transplant Surgeon said. said Dr. David Mulligan.

“This is a really exciting new area, and Yale has been a leader in this area of ​​research and we look forward to them translating this into a clinical aspect in the coming months,” Mulligan said.