Closing the Gap Between Organ Transplant Scarcity and the Countless Patients in Need

Penn State

Annually, 150,000 people around the world join the waiting list for an organ transplant but half of them die before they can get one.

Why are there Organ Shortages?

Only a very small number of people die in a way that allowed their organs to be suitable for transplantation. Such as in the hospital, in an intensive care unit, following a road accident or a stroke. Or some people haven’t made it clear that they want to become an organ donor when they die, and relatives may be too distraught to give the doctors permission.


Xenotransplantation is the process of transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species.The transplant can be carried out between concordant species , which are closely related and have a lot of the same genes. Or it can be carried out between discordant species that aren’t closely related, therefore having few genes in common. Transplants carried out between discordant species result in more violently rejected transplanted organs. This is because all animals have ‘flags’ on their cells that tell what species they are.

Why are transplanted organs rejected?

Majority of people with transplanted organs suffer from rejection, even if they’re from the same species. Rejection happens because the recipient’s immune system realizes that the new organ is not its own. Thats why transplant patients must take anti-rejection drugs. On the other hand if the organ being donated comes from a different species it is rejected quiet quickly in a process called hyper acute rejection. “In hyper acute rejection pre-programmed antibodies in the recipient’s bloodstream target the xenoantigens, “the flags”, all over the transplanted organ and trigger a destructive chain reaction. The blood supply to the transplanted organ is blocked, cells die, and the organ stops working.” Continue reading