Over the last two months, I have discussed the importance of collaboration with all stakeholders in achieving true change to the organ donation and transplantation system. One of the most important drivers of advancement is innovation and studies show that collaboration and teamwork drive innovation. AOPO is dedicated to working with our partners to drive innovation and research to increase donation and maximize transplantation as part of our goal to reach 50,000 annual organ transplants by 2026.
So let me explain how this tenant will impact our efforts and help make this campaign a success.
Drive Innovation and Research
To achieve the life-saving goal of 50,000 annual organ transplants by 2026, AOPO will advocate for strategies and modalities to maximize and optimize organ referral, organ recovery, and organ preservation. We will promote, support, and participate in research to explore innovative strategies to further advance all tenants of the campaign.
Innovation has been a key component of the massive growth in organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation over the past 25 years. Advancements in transplantation techniques, anti-rejection therapies, and patient care improved early outcomes for patients and expanded the number of transplants. Medical innovations like the cure for Hepatitis C and the utilization of organs from donation after cardiac death (DCD) donors has allowed the expansion of eligible donors. Technologies already available and others in development hold great promise to increase transplantation. AOPO will be advocating for innovative strategies in the following areas:
Electronic Donor Referral
Effective donor referral processes are critical to successful donation outcomes and organ procurement organizations (OPOs) rely on hospital partners to refer potential donors in a timely fashion. Due to the manual nature of many referral systems between hospitals and OPOs, there is opportunity to enhance this critical process through the implementation of electronic donor referral systems. AOPO is committed to advocate for the implementation of electronic referrals systemwide to ensure timely identification and notification of every opportunity for donation.
Next-Generation Perfusion Technologies
We now have normothermic perfusion devices for hearts, lungs, and livers. These technologies, which preserve organs for longer periods of time, are especially important during DCD cases. In 2020, DCD donations increased by 18.6 percent over 2019 and this trend will continue with advancements in perfusion technologies. AOPO will drive utilization of existing innovations in organ perfusion and advocate for investment in new perfusion technologies to increase the quality of organs made available for transplant by all donor types.
Safe, Timely Organ Transplantation Through Innovative Technology
The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) has policies in place to provide guidance to OPOs transporting organs between destinations, which includes an extensive documentation process. With technological advancements underway, we can improve the effectiveness of organ transport to ensure safe and timely deliveries to transplant hospitals. OPOs are currently partnering with charter and courier companies, and delivery companies such as United Parcel Service (UPS) to improve this process. There are also drone-based projects ongoing to explore new technologies to track organs in transit. In addition, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is pursuing an Organ Tracking Project with five OPOs that uses tracking technology to improve transportation and delivery of organs. Innovations like these are helping enhance organ transportation across the nation. AOPO will advocate for advances and utilization of new technologies for safe and efficient transportation.
Support for Research and Educational Efforts
AOPO will leverage the synergy created through the work of its Organ Donation Research Council (ODRC), as well as explore research opportunities with system stakeholders, to identify strategies to optimize donor management, organ recovery, and organ preservation. Current projects and opportunities include successful practices in DCD liver recovery and the exploration of the OPO’s role in supporting research for bioengineering of organs. Furthermore, AOPO is a partner in the National Institute of Health (NIH) APOLLO study which investigates the impact of a common gene (APOL1) found in individuals of African descent that attributes to higher cases of kidney disease. Their research aims to address health disparities in this community by improving kidney donation and transplant outcomes. We are also eagerly awaiting the recommendations from AOPO’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, which will include ways in which we can help OPOs improve their outreach and educational efforts to multicultural communities. All of these efforts are focused on improving donation rates and transplant outcomes.
Through partnerships with federal regulators, donor hospitals, transplant programs, and public advocacy groups to implement the above initiatives, we will save more lives than ever before–achieving 50,000 organ transplants annually by 2026.
Steve Miller, AOPO CEO