The word ‘miracle’ is thrown around casually, often referring to everyday occurrences like confirming a reservation or making it to a meeting on time. In the field of medicine though, organ transplantation is something truly miraculous — cheating death and restoring hope to thousands of Americans suffering from the failure of their kidneys, livers, hearts or lungs.

Sobering facts

Nearly half of all transplanted organs will fail within 10 years. Our patients will either die of their original disease, or require a second transplant — a much more challenging and risky procedure. The primary objective of the American Society of Transplantation (AST) is to restore the health of our patients and ensure the long-term survival of those who have undergone transplantation. 

Why do so many transplants fail? Chronic rejection is caused by the immune system’s destructive response to a transplant, and powerful drugs must be taken to prevent that from happening. But therapy isn’t a few short weeks, it’s for life. And because these drugs have toxicities that complicate the choices physicians must make after a transplant, it’s often a difficult process. 

Overcoming obstacles

We must develop a new generation of drugs that are safer and more effective; we must develop new tests to help doctors monitor and optimize drug therapy for each individual patient, and we must create an environment for the transplant so that rejection is taken off the table forever. It’s possible to develop new mobile apps that will significantly improve survival rates by directly engaging patients in their drug therapy. It’s possible to engineer new organs using stem cells that have been genetically modified to suppress organ rejection. All of this is possible, but only if we have the necessary support.

Established by AST, the new Transplantation and Immunology Research Network (T.I.R.N.) includes hundreds of physicians and scientists who have dedicated their lives to advancing the research necessary to change lives. Organ transplantation has always been at the intersection of all science and medicine. Thus, transplantation research also contributes to fundamental understandings of immunity to infections like HIV, to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes, and to the blood vessel inflammation that causes heart disease. 

But no enterprise can function without funding. These are tough times, and we need the support of the American public to have any chance. There’s only one question: Do you believe in miracles?