Undergoing an organ transplant procedure is a long and harrowing process. First there is the waiting period of finding a suitable donor, undergoing therapies and certain tests to ensure a high percentage of matching between the donor and the recipient. A high matching rate is needed so that the recipient’s body will not reject the transplant and attack it.
In some cases that the recipient’s immune system attacks the transplanted organ, it can result to even more fatal situations and sometimes even death of the patient. In some cases too, the very long waiting period from obtaining a suitable organ match from organ banks or donors can be the cause of death. The patient’s body just can’t hold out much longer without a new organ.
But all of that may be a thing of the past, once decellularization becomes more available as an organ preparation method for transplant. We will be able to use the organs of pigs (surprisingly their organs have a high degree of similarity to humans such as their heart, or from deceased human bodies).
To see what this future of organ transplant is all about, watch below:
As its name implies, decellularization is the removal of cells in the organ. To explain simply, each of us individuals have our own cells and DNA. We have high matches of cells and DNA with our parents and siblings, and more degree of difference with strangers. Everything in our bodies have this cell imprint, kinda like our own unique blueprints as people.
A decellularized human heart, stripped off all cells such as blood.
If we put a donor’s organ inside another person, the cells of the donor are still present, and would have some degree of difference with the patient. The patient’s immune system may react to the organ as a foreign object and attack it. In decellularization, the donor’s cells coating the organs are washed off with a special detergent that only strips off these cells but does not destroy the organ itself.
The stages of decellularization of a human kidney
To ease up the acceptance of the organ in the body, the organs are then filled or coated with the patient’s own cells (stem cell usually from blood). Now the immune system will see the transplanted organ as a member of the body since it also has the same cell blueprints.
Decellularization can truly save a lot of lives. However a few points of ethical concerns come to light:
Would we let animals like pigs be bred as “organ farms”. Would we raise animals only to be slaughtered for organ transplants?
Wouldn’t the ease of access to organ transplant make us even more careless of our lifestyle choices and live even more unhealthily? We would think, “so what if I get kidney failure from diabetes, or heart problem from hypertension, I can always get a new organ…”
Won’t prolonged life make the earth even more crowded? But as long as we have our loved one for much longer, that’s what counts right?
Indeed this technique is a very exciting step forward for science and the field of medicine, but there are of course still some sides to it that we need to think about. We should remember that ultimately, it is us and our practices who destroy our bodies, so we ought to take more care of it.
Adapting a healthier lifestyle now may reduce our risks for these diseases in the future.
What are your thoughts on this? Share on the comments below and don’t forget to inform your friends about this too!
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