According to the HRSA, 17 deaths occur in the US every day due to not receiving an organ before an illness progresses too far. Waiting times are on average three to five years, so it’s about time we came up with some alternative solutions.
A recent advance that hugely helped this effort was the successful transplantation of pig organs – a heart and kidneys – into human patients. Now, scientists have managed to modify human lungs to match any donor body in a medical first.
To receive an organ, your blood type has to match the donor organ otherwise the body will reject it. This is due to antigens on the surface of the lung cells having to match up with the blood type. This complex matching requirement means longer waiting times for patients to receive the transplant, plus many donor lungs going to waste.
How did they modify the lungs?
Thanks to a research team at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, compatibility was able to be widened to any blood type. The way in which they did this was through a pair of enzymes: FpGalNAc deacetylase and FpGalactosaminidase. Basically, these busy proteins modify the antigens found on the lung cells to be accepting of universal blood type O.
Currently, patients with blood type O have a 20 percent greater risk of dying while waiting for a transplant. “This strategy has the potential to expand ABO-incompatible lung transplantation and lead to improvements in the fairness of organ allocation,” write the researchers in their paper published in Science Translational Medicine.
In these preliminary experiments, it only took four hours for the lungs to be converted and no toxicity was observed. Next, the research team wants to transplant their universal donor lungs into a living organism. Using mice, the longer-term effectiveness and safety of the enzyme treatment will be able to be evaluated.
Source study: Science Translational Medicine – Ex vivo enzymatic treatment converts blood type A donor lungs into universal blood type lungs