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The Future of Organ Donation and Transplantation in America

Brian Shepard

Chief Executive Officer, United Network for Organ Sharing

Americans can be proud that our nation is home to the world’s best organ donation and transplant system. Thanks to the generosity of donor families and the hard work of organ donation and transplant professionals, more than 39,000 life-saving transplants were performed last year. 

But even after 10 consecutive record-breaking years for organ donation from deceased donors, the need for organ donors is immense. American innovators are constantly looking for ways to do an even better job of making organs available to those who need them. Promising and exciting new developments on the horizon will bring the gift of life to even more people.

Improving organs’ success rates

Clinical trials are underway for a new technology called ex vivo normothermic machine perfusion (EVNMP). It’s a complicated term for a better way to preserve organs as they travel from donor to recipient, by approximating conditions in the body, like temperature, nutrients, and oxygen. 

With EVNMP, as opposed to the static cold storage that is common today, the organ can function much as it would within the body, and that extends the period that an organ can remain viable. Using EVNMP could ensure organs are in the best shape possible prior to transplant and increase the chances of a successful transplant. 

If we can make more organs viable for transplant, we can save more lives.

IT is “a vital enabler”

Information technology (IT) enables every part of the transplant process, from managing the waitlist and identifying potential donors, to matching patients with lifesaving organs and tracking the organs along their journey to transplant hospitals. Technology alone is not enough, but it’s a vital enabler as lives truly depend on the system running 24/7.

Leading technology companies like Nutanix and Microsoft provide the UNOS system with hybrid cloud computing that speeds up big data and predictive analytics to maximize how quickly the vast amounts of data that enable donation and transplant can travel. As computing power continues to accelerate, we’ll harness it to make our top-notch system even better.

Every innovation in organ donation and transplantation saves more lives. Thanks to ongoing and cutting-edge developments, continuous improvement, and innovation, the future of organ transplantation in America has never looked better.   

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