Public Release: 

Re-assessing organ availability

By expanding the donation pool to include currently deemed 'unfit' organs, researchers say the gap could be closed or narrowed, resulting in more lives saved

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Boston, MA - Organ transplantation is often a last treatment available to many patients facing end-stage diseases. More than 125,000 patients are currently on the wait list for an organ transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. But, based on currently practiced approaches of accepting organs, the availability remains limited. Consequently, the health of these patients deteriorates and UNOS estimates that, on average, 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.

In a new review article, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital highlight a largely untapped, existing opportunity: the use of deceased-donor organs that are currently excluded from potential transplant due to old age, a hepatitis C infection, or cardiac death. The team notes that newly developed approaches and treatments could allow for the successful transplantation of these organs that were previously considered unusable.

"We see a potential opportunity to narrow the gap between the current supply and demand by utilizing available organs" said Stefan G. Tullius, MD, PhD, chief of transplant surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital and lead author of the study. Tullius also thinks that novel methods of preserving organs may facilitate assessment and reconditioning of organs that are considered 'suboptimal'".

Dr. Tullius also adds, that while we see the potential benefit to expanding the potential donor pool, "the specific risk that would be acceptable in using these organs will need to be defined, and the risk-benefit analysis will need to be made explicitly clear to patients."

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Paper cited: Tullius S et al. "Improving the Supply and Quality of Deceased-Donor Organs for Transplantation" The New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1507080

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 793-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare. BWH has more than 4.2 million annual patient visits and nearly 46,000 inpatient stays, is the largest birthing center in Massachusetts and employs nearly 16,000 people. The Brigham's medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in patient care, quality improvement and patient safety initiatives, and its dedication to research, innovation, community engagement and educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Brigham Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, more than 3,000 researchers, including physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by nearly $666 million in funding. For the last 25 years, BWH ranked second in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) among independent hospitals. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative as well as the TIMI Study Group, one of the premier cardiovascular clinical trials groups. For more information, resources and to follow us on social media, please visit BWH's online newsroom.

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