When it comes to organ transplants, finding compatible donors has always been an issue. The average wait for a person who needs a transplant is three to four years. NFL superstar Tom Brady recently used social media to help bring awareness to the importance of organ donation. Tom Brady’s mentor, Tom Martinez, needed a kidney transplant. Through Tom’s efforts, two donors were found for Tom Martinez.
Recently, there was a push on Facebook to increase the number of people who are organ donors by adding a donor status to profiles and encouraging users to add it to their page. By using social media technology to bring awareness to the issue, organ donor proponents are hoping more people will sign up to be organ donors. In the last 20 years, organ donation rates remained relatively unchanged in the U.S., but after Facebook added a donor status option, thousands of donors joined the ranks.
When a person has end-stage renal disease, a kidney transplant is the most effective treatment. There are around 570,000 people who are suffering from end-stage-renal disease in the United States. Waiting three to four years for a donor is not always feasible. Recently, the FDA approved an artificial kidney for its Innovation Pathway 2.0. The artificial kidney is a wearable device that uses nanotechnology. If the device is a success, it could save lives.
While the development of artificial organs is one way to help the field of organ transplants, regenerative medicine takes a different approach: growing a new organ. By using stem cells, researchers hope to, one day, grow organs for those in need of transplants. Just last year, a cancer patient received a trachea that was made entirely in a lab. The patient’s stem cells were used to help create the trachea.
Growing organs from the stem cells of the person who is to receive the organ solves another problem associated with transplants: rejection. When a person receives an organ from another person, the organ can be a threat to the immune system. Even if the transplant goes smoothly, anti-rejection drugs must be taken daily so rejection doesn’t occur. Advancements in regenerative medicine will make the issue of rejection a thing of the past.
Though the future looks bright thanks to advancements in technology, it is important to note that some achievements are years away. Research must still be done; trials need to be completed. While people wait for the medical advances that technology brings, social media can still be used to increase awareness and increase the number of organ donors. There is no doubt that lives can be saved with an increase in the number of people who donate organs.