The congress is considered the field's most important scientific meeting, with both basic and clinical scientific findings being presented in sessions Monday, Aug. 26 through Friday, Aug. 30 at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, Fla.
The international flavor of the meeting also brings into sharp focus a worldwide crisis: Nowhere in the world are there enough organs to meet the need of those awaiting transplants of organs such as hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys, pancreases and intestines, or of tissues and cells, such as pancreatic islet cells, corneas, bone - even hands.
Although no official figures are available, it is estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 people throughout the world are waiting for transplants on any given day. About 65,000 transplants are performed each year, and approximately 45,000 of these are kidney transplants. Most transplants are performed using organs and tissues from cadaveric donors, who during life expressed a willingness to make such a gift after death. But the number of organ donors differs from country to country. Spain continues to outperform all other countries. According to 2001 figures from Transplant Procurement Management, an international registry on organ donation and transplantation (www.tpm.org), Spain had a rate of 32.5 donors per million population (DPM), followed by Austria (23 DPM), Belgium (21.6 DPM), the United States (21.4 DPM) and Portugal (20.2 DPM). Some of the donation rates in other countries that same year include 12.8 in Germany , 13.5 in Canada and 1.9 in Greece.
In Latin America, according to TPM, Uruguay had the highest donation rate at 11.5 DPM. In Brazil, where 12 percent of the world's kidney transplants are performed, the cadaveric donor rate for 2001 was 4.4 per million population. Brazil and most other countries attempt to make up for the shortage of organ donors by performing transplants using living donors. In Japan, due to deep-rooted cultural beliefs, nearly all liver transplants performed involve living donors.
"Transplantation is a global clinical service with transplant centers and trained professionals in nearly every corner of the world. But many programs are providing a service under some of the most challenging circumstances. Hopefully, this congress will have some impact on the donor shortage crisis, not only through the exchange of ideas on how to best improve organ donation, but by hearing about the very latest research that seeks to find alternative sources of organs, be they animal or artificial," said Carl Groth, M.D., Ph.D., president of The Transplantation Society and professor of transplantation surgery at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
More than 1,600 oral and poster presentations covering such topics as transplant tolerance, cellular transplantation, gene therapy, transgenics and xenotransplantation will be presented in scientific sessions.
Following a pre-congress symposium on living donor kidney transplantation, the congress officially begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday with opening ceremonies that will pay tribute to the late Felix T. Rapaport, M.D., who served as president of The Transplantation Society from 1978 to 1980 and on the society's council since its founding in 1966 until his death last year.
Also participating in the opening ceremonies will be the co- chairs of the congress, Camillo Ricordi, M.D., of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and Domingo Casadei, M.D., of the Instituto de Nefrologia in Buenos Aires.
The International Congress is held every two years. This year's congress had originally been scheduled to take place in Buenos Aires, but due to Argentina's unstable economy, its location was changed earlier this year to the Miami site. The 2004 congress will be held in Vienna, Austria.
The society has more than 3,000 members. Among its current and former members are six Nobel Laureates.