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Shortage of Human Donor Organs

The number of organ transplants performed in the United States continues to increase, but these numbers would be even higher if more donor organs were available; the waiting list for transplants has quadrupled since 1988. NIAID is working to address this problem by supporting efforts to improve donor registries that identify potential donors and by developing educational initiatives to increase public understanding of organ donation, especially among minority populations.

The use of nonhuman organs, tissues, or cells in human transplantation, called xenotransplantation, is another strategy. The potential of xenotransplantation, however, is severely limited by the violent response of the human immune system to nonhuman tissues. There are also concerns that infectious agents might inadvertently be introduced from animal donors into humans. NIAID-supported xenotransplantation research focuses on increasing our understanding of the human immune response to antigens present on cells from nonhuman species and on developing methods for rapid identification and treatment of any infectious diseases that might be caused by organisms present in animal donor tissue.

Last Updated June 17, 2008