Developing new ways to assess the quality of donor organs
Organs donated for transplantation need to be able to function immediately in the body of the recipient. Our research theme aims to develop techniques of donor assessment that will predict how well an organ will function if it is used for transplantation.
Some organs donated today are affected by age-related diseases, other health conditions or lifestyle choices. The most common of these is atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries. In addition, diabetes and high blood pressure damage the kidneys and heart, high fat diets and alcohol can damage the liver and smoking damages the lungs. In many cases the diseases are such that the transplanting surgeon has to turn the organ down for transplant, because he or she either does not have enough information or cannot guarantee that the organ will work well enough after implantation. However, some of these organs can be transplanted successfully if an accurate assessment can be made about their quality.
In parallel with other groups in the BTRU our research work is evaluating donated organs using machines designed to mimic conditions in the body. These ‘perfusion machines’ allow an accurate assessment of organ function to be made and this helps to inform the decision about whether a particular organ is suitable for transplantation.
We have also developed an automated photographic assessment technique to assess organ quality. At present, surgeons make a formal assessment of the organs within the donor before removing them. This is a somewhat subjective visual evaluation that can only be made by an experienced surgeon. Working with a UK company we have developed a computer program that enables an iPad to replicate the surgeon’s assessment. The next step is to take this technology forward into the local and national organ donation pathway.
We are also searching for molecules in the bloodstream of donors that can predict whether organs that are being considered for transplantation will have a successful outcome.
We anticipate that together these developments will improve our ability to predict how well donated organs will function and so increase the number available for transplantation.
Our research-in-action video explains more about our work: https://youtu.be/xG-NCLqscBo