Organ transplantation is the miracle that our technology has. Due to the organ transplant, we are saving! Organ donation is useful in many ways.
Today, many people are aware of organ donation. But still, some need to gain knowledge about organ transplants.
The process of organ donation is quite hard. But technology makes it as easy as possible. Here, we will discuss improved organ transplants. There are several methods of organ transplants. Some of them we will see today.
Before, let us take a look at the history of organ transplants.
1. History Of Organ Transplant
If one of your vital organs stops functioning, it may lead to death. Hence, to save the life of a patient, an organ transplant is important.
It was much more difficult to study internal organs in the old times. Research on living organs was impossible due to the lack of machines.
Also, the study of dead bodies was taboo in society. But still, our ancestors did a lot of organ transplants. A strong base of organ transplants was created in the past. All the credit goes to ancestors.
Our ancestors studied the wounds of patients. By observing it, they used to guess the structure, function, and repair of that part of the body. Also, they replaced damaged external organs.
The most ancient replacement evidence comes from South America. The people replaced their lost teeth with seashells for years. Amazingly, the bone socket grew in to meet the seashell. So, this makes the implant permanent.
But the teeth aren’t organs. They are just inert implants. If we want to talk about human transplants, we need to talk about the largest part of the human body. That part is skin.
1.1 Skin Grafting
Surprisingly, skin transplantation has a long history. Earlier in ancient India, the medical text “Sushruta Samhita” describes the form of plastic surgery on the nose. The surgery today is known as Rhinoplasty.
As mentioned in the text, the flap of skin from the cheek or forehead attached to the nose while leaving the base is attached. This is to keep it supplied with the original blood vessels. Once the graft takes hold it is severe. And it is sculpted into a new nose.
This technique was used for people who lost their noses in sword fights. At that time plastic surgery was a very respectable profession.
Eventually, the upper tiers of the caste system began to reject it. Because this requires both manual work and touching of another body. So these highly skilled doctors slowly lost their social status. But the good thing is that the practice never stopped completely.
1.2 Transplants Other Than Grafting
By the time Europeans learned methods, nearly 2000 years later, skilled surgeons started operating. The process reached Italy. Surgeon Tog Lea Kazi advanced surgery with upper arm flaps. This results in less facial scarring.
But this was all about grafting one’s skin on the body itself. When people tried grafting the complete nose from one to another, it failed.
It resulted in the death of the donor and acceptor too. The people at that time were not able to understand why this happened. But now we know the reason.
If the transplant does not match the blood group and other important factors of the receiver, this results in the failure of the transplant.
Later in 1837, the surgeon reported successful corneal transplantation between two different beings. It is a transplant of the cornea.
In the late 1800s, the focus on grafting skin was moved to transplanting glands. Surgeons started implanting slices of these glands under patients’ skin. However, this process also failed. However, the tissue failed due to improper implantation.
Tech advancements lead to successful organ transplants.
The history of transplants consists of both failures and successes. The scientific and social barriers were the main reason for failures. But now we have progressed a lot in transplant techniques. Now, let us talk about modern organ transplantation.
2. Organ Transplants in the New Era
Organ transplants are done to replace damaged and missing organs. It can be any organ in your body, from the kidney to the liver, from the skin to the eyes. Organ transplants can save or enhance the lives of patients.
The donated organ may be from a dead donor who wants to donate their organ or a living donor as well, who can survive well enough after donating. But only a few organs are there that living donors can donate.
The kidney is one such organ. Humans have two kidneys. But we can survive on one kidney too. Also, the dead person can donate his eyes. Patients on a ventilator with blood flow to their organs can still donate their vital organs.
But there are some conditions while transplanting organs. Before discussing the basics of organ rejection let us talk about the immune system.
3. Immune System
Your immune system protects your body from foreign substances. The foreign bodies include bacteria and viruses.
It plays an important role in keeping us healthy. The immunity power decides how healthy a person is. But not always. Many times it is an obstacle. All the transplants have a fear of the immune system. Firstly, let us discuss how the immune system works.
3.1 How The Immune System Works
The immune system identifies pathogens by detecting surface proteins. This immune response attacks the foreign body.
In the next section, we will get to know how the immune system plays a role in organ transplantation.
3.2 The Basics of Organ Rejection
Organ transplantation is the only treatment for end-stage organ failures. The number of patients needing organs is continuously increasing. Besides, the number of donors is decreasing.
Also, there are many biological conditions for transplanting organs into a patient’s body. So, many patients are waiting to get the organ.
All the tissues in our body possess unique antigens. When someone receives an organ transplant the antigen of the donor organ is recognized as foreign. Thus, the immune response is initiated. This eventually leads to the rejection of that organ.
As mentioned above, the immune response is reserved for fighting bacteria or viruses. But in these unique cases, the immune system starts attacking the donor organ.
3.2.1 Types Of Organ Rejection
Types of organ rejection depend on how long the body will take to reject the organ. The following are the types of organ rejection:
- Hyperacute Organ Rejection
This type of organ rejection happens almost immediately.
- Acute Organ Rejection
Acute organ rejection happens after a few weeks of organ transplant.
- Chronic Organ Rejection
This type of organ rejection occurs after a few years of organ transplants.
3.2.2 Preventing Organ Rejection
So, after discussing all the types of organ rejection the question is how we can prevent organ rejection.
One of the most common ways to prevent organ rejection is through immune or suppressant medications. This medication artificially suppresses the receiver’s immune system.
4. Improved Organ Transplants
The future of organ transplants looks very bright. The invention of faster methods to transport donated organs will decrease the chances of organ rejection.
4.1 Nano-technology to Improve Organ Preservation for Transplantation
Nanotechnology is mostly based on magnetic nanowires. These wires are extremely small like four-inch pieces of hair shrunken about millions of times. It’s very small but long and thin.
These wires have specific properties. The reason is its size and shape. This wire has numerous applications in bio-applications.
There are many challenges in conducting organ donation. Organ transplantation should be quick to avoid organ rejection. The organ-preserved cold should come at the appropriate temperature for surgery. So, the nanoparticles can produce heat to get the appropriate temperature.
Imagine in an accident the person dies and he wishes to donate his organs when he is alive. So, instantly the organ from a donor is removed. Let us consider the organ is the heart. Even after preserving the heart in cold conditions, it is viable for up to 4 hours. So, this makes it tough to examine the organ donated.
Here is the role of nanotechnology. The nanoparticle can heat the organ constantly.
This means the small nanoparticles have to heat the organ very fast and effectively. Surprisingly the nanowires heats fast. Scientists are trying to put nanowires into the organ through vasculatures while freezing the organ.
When the organ is needed to transplant, these nanowires will heat the organ quickly. This process will make donated organs more viable. The viability of the organ gives more time for transplant.
So, nanotechnology can help in donated organ preservation. Although this technique seems like the future of organ transplantation.
5. Overview of Organ Transplantation
As fascinating as transplantation sounds, it is quite a complicated process. Scientists now are working on designing organs from scratch instead of just transplanting them from one person to another.
Organ transplantation is the last stage of treatment. So, it’s tough to find the perfect matched organ in such a short amount of time. Even after finding a donor, there are many factors to consider.
The factors are compatible blood type, similar body size, and antigens, Also, many people are not ready to donate their spare kidney or chunk of their liver when they are alive.
Because of religious issues, the donation of organs is not popular even after death.
Even after successfully chasing all the problems the transplantation is very time sensitive. Blood supplies run out, the tissues tend to die very quickly after detaching from the body.
We can’t keep organs for a long time outside the body. The time for a heart to stay healthy outside of the body is 4 hours.
So, even after successful transplantation, the fear of organ rejection is still there. As discussed above, to prevent organ rejection the immune system is suppressed.
But this suppression of the immune system makes the receiver sick. This is because the immune system becomes weak due to suppressants and can be attacked by viruses and bacteria.
Also, some parts like the intestine are hard to transplant. Because the intestine generates a very strong immune response.
All the above problems show the need to create artificially engineered organs from transplantation. So for this, scientists are taking inspiration from creating organs in embryos.
5.1 Process of Creating Organ
To start this we need just some cells and instructions on what to build in the form of DNA. Based on the instructions the cells will get specialized and convert into whatever organ we want. We can create every organ from this process.
In the above process, the cells we have taken are stem cells. The process of dividing is differentiation. The cells during differentiation need something to grab on. This is for becoming organ-shaped. To provide that structure scientists use scaffolds.
In most cases, scientists make these scaffolds from the organs of deceased donors. They decellularized these organs by flushing them out with powerful detergent. After the process, only the extracellular matrix, meshwork of fibrous proteins, and other molecules remain. Along them, the dividing cells grab on.
This technology is tested in simpler organs. One of its examples is trachea transplants. This process has been tested with many different organs in labs.
Plugging the right kind of cell on the right spot of a scaffold is tricky. So researchers are looking for 3D-printed organs. This is known as Bioprinting.
In this, instead of filling a printer with ink different molecular components needed to make organs are loaded.
In general, scientists suspend the cells of the extracellular matrix in liquids or gel. This is for making the printing more manageable. The main goal is to build scaffolds and deposit them into cells to grow the whole organ.
Also, any organ that is detached from the blood supply will die. So researchers are working on ways to create tiny blood vessels that can get to all the parts of the large organs.
So, if scientists can print scaffolds for organs and blood vessels it will be a promising direction for organ transplant fields.
There is one more concept for transplanting organs. The process is growing the organ in non-human animals and giving it to human recipients.
This is also called xenotransplantation.
5.2.1 Pig’s Organ for Transplantation
These days researchers are looking to use whole organs from pigs in transplantation. Some pig organs are already about the right size for human recipients. A kidney is one such organ.
But still, there are a lot of hurdles. Besides immunological rejection, we also have to worry about infection. All pigs have DNA from viruses in their genome. The virus is a porcine endogenous retrovirus.
All this means the cells churn out viruses that can infect human cells. This is a problem because we don’t want new organs to make patients sicker. So, scientists are trying to use gene editing techniques like CRISPR. This is to inactivate the DNA codes of the retrovirus.
This will hopefully make xenotransplants safer. Although there is more research required. Because even if deactivating the virus it’s not confirmed that it will be a perfect match for recipients.
Due to all these issues, scientists are looking into combining cells from two organisms into chimeras. The organism could be two genetically distinct members of the same species or different species.
In 2011, researchers tried to create mouse-rat chimaeras. This is for fixing defective organs.
In 2017, researchers created the human-pig chimaeras. Here, researchers tried to inject pig embryos with human-induced pluripotent stem cells. This proved to be difficult for a couple of reasons.
The DNA of pigs and humans are less similar. Also, both organisms have different developmental schedules. Human embryos develop in 9 months. Pig embryos develop in 4 months. So, the steam cells of both develop at different rates.
Overcoming difficulties can be highly beneficial. These will fulfil the need for organs for patients.
So as discussed above, organ transplantation is the saviour for patients. Transplanting organs is not easy. Various conditions need to be fulfilled before putting the organ of the donor to the receiver. There’s a shortage of organ donors for many patients in need.
This makes the transplanting process tough. So, to make it easy various modern techniques can be used. Nanotechnology can be used for the preservation of organs for a long time. Tiny nanoparticles could transform organ transplants.
3D printing can revolutionize organ transplantation technology. This technique makes it easy to meet the demand for organs. Technology advancements will resolve 3D printing issues.
We all should be aware of organ donation. Eye donation is the simplest thing. We all can do that. After death, our organs can save another life.
What are your opinions about organ transplantation? What more improvements could be made to it? let me know below.