Every year, tens of thousands of Americans receive new organs, giving them a new lease on life when the ones they were born with start to fail. In 2016 there were more than 33,600 transplants, a number that has risen by 20 percent in the past five years.
However, there are many more than that waiting on the transplant list — about 120,000 people total. Sometimes they wait for years; an average of about 8,000 people die every year waiting for the organs they need. Researchers, doctors and policymakers are exploring new strategies to increase the supply of organs needed to meet the demand.
Part of the reason for the shortfall is that not all donated organs can be used. One factor is the standard method of transport and storage. There is a short window of time to get the organ to the recipient in time. Another problem is mismatching donors to recipients. In response, there is a movement afoot to find tech solutions to combat the crisis.
If researchers are successful, these same calculations and questions will look a lot different in the future. Several new techniques could extend the time an organ stays viable outside the body, which could help give doctors more time to find recipients and decrease the number of organs that are underutilized.Share