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The demand for organ transplants in the U.S. alone outweighs the supply by a factor of 5 to 1. Although the New Organ Research Alliance focuses our attention on the Bioengineering research strategies toward ending this organ shortage, we support increasing the access to more donor organs by partnering with other innovative organizations.
Improving our ability to preserve cells, tissues, and organs long enough to be transplanted from the lab into the patient will increase the number of donor organs available for transplant. Cryopreservation is the preservation of tissues at sub-zero temperatures. This method serves to decrease or completely halt cellular metabolism and other potentially damaging cellular processes (inflammation, apoptosis, etc).
Because aggregate tissue injury needs only to be kept to acceptable minimum levels to ensure post-storage health of tissues, many combinations of advances on the different sub-challenges may ultimately enable organ banking. Numerous opportunities exist for large breakthroughs that can enable organ banking, but small incremental advances in several of these areas may also be sufficient to minimize cryo-injury to acceptable levels.
The New Organ Research Alliance itself does not focus on accelerating Cryo-Preservation for increasing access to donor organs. However, we have partnered with the Organ Preservation Alliance to coordinate efforts on this front.
improving transport & increasing donations
There are two overarching reasons that there is a shortage of donor organs for patients who need them: (1) there simply are not enough donors, and (2) there is not an ability to transport the existing donor organs to the patients quickly enough to keep them viable for the transplant.
Improving our ability to transport viable donor organs to patients in need and increasing the number of donor organs available could help shrink the gap between the available donor organs and the number needed. The New Organ Research Alliance does not focus on increasing donations, or improving transplants; however, we encourage those who are interested in these areas to look into the existing organ procurement organizations. Information about these groups can be found through the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, or by visiting Organdonor.gov.