New Actions Announced at the White House Organ Summit
In an effort to answer President Obama’s call to action to reduce the waiting list for organ transplants, the White House Organ Summit took place this week. This event brought together key healthcare professionals to contribute their innovative ideas about how to improve the organ donation process and the technologies that could further increase not only life expectancy, but quality of life for organ recipients. The facts surrounding organ donation are shocking: 120,000 people are on the list awaiting organs, and 22 people die every day, waiting for a transplant. This is an urgent problem that America faces, though — as this discussion pointed out — significant breakthroughs are just around the corner.
One of the key speakers was Jenna Arnold, who co-founded Organize with Greg Segal. Organize is dedicated to improving the organ donation system, where currently 95% of Americans support donating their organs to people in need after they pass away, however only half of them actually register! Organize is making it easier for people of all ages to register, and streamlining the way that donors can record their personal wishes. They’ve already created America’s first central registry, and are currently working toward the goal of getting every state in the union to recognize Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook updates, and other social media posts as evidence of donor wishes. All donors need to do is include the hashtag #organdonor or #organdonation, and Organize will capture the message. Jenna emphasized that there is really no better way to hear that your deceased loved one wanted to be an organ donor, than in their own words.
“We are the founding mothers and fathers of an organized (pun intended) approach to this new process. Change always brings growing pains, but we’re not going to get past the ceiling the industry has already hit if we’re not willing to experiment.” — Jenna Arnold
In a panel discussion about ‘Inventing the Future,’ BioEngineering Professor Shuvo Roy talked about his development of a bio-artificial kidney. This would combine very advanced nanotechnology and cell therapy, to deliver a device that is implanted into a patient. The idea is that it would remove the need for dialysis, provide continuous treatment, and allow patients to eat and drink freely. Roy said that clinical trials will start in just 18 months.
Another panelist was Nina Tandon, the CEO of start-up EpiBone. This organization is devoted to personalized bone implants, meaning they take stem cells and grow bones for people who need them. This would simplify the bone donation and waiting list process, and allow a shorter recovery time without the complications of foreign implants.
Speaking about the kidney failure and further alternatives to dialysis, University of Chicago Medicine Medical Director Michelle Josephson announced that the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) will contribute the first $7 million toward the development of a wearable implant to replace kidney function and vastly improve quality of life.
If you’re interested in learning more, the entire summit is available to watch on YouTube. These issues are hugely important, and worth taking the time to research. Remember, it only takes a few minutes to sign up to be an organ donor, and that decision could literally save someone’s life. Here is a list of state registries for organ, eye, and tissue donation. The more information we are all armed with, the better our experiences in this world will be. Health psychologist Amy Waterman summarized it perfectly at the summit, “transplant is the best of humanity and the best of healthcare.” We agree wholeheartedly.
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Featured Video via Organ_ize