Every 36 hours, Dr Dan Chambers and his team receive a call about donated organs.
While it is true that there aren’t enough organ donors to reduce our waiting list times and prevent people from dying while waiting for a transplant, the other issue is that only a relatively small proportion of donated organs are actually transplanted. In the UK and the US only 15-20% of donated organs are actually used. In Australia, we do a lot better – 37% of donated lungs are transplanted here – but can we improve even further?
In this field, Australia is pushing the boundaries to save more lives. But with the current organ compatibility test, it’s hard to push this percentage higher.
The current test for lung compatibility looks at how well the lungs were oxygenating the donor. It’s a conservative test, and while it does help to identify some viable lungs, Dr Chambers thinks we can do better. In fact, he has identified a new test that will potentially help to transplant organs that are actually viable, but may have previously slipped through the cracks.
By collecting a blood sample from every Queensland organ donor since 2009, they’ve been able to test for this biomarker and compare it against the organ recipients and their success. The results are currently looking good, and if the research keeps going ahead at this pace it will be the first new test of organ function in over 30 years.
It may also help with other organ transplants, such as the kidney and liver, as the chemical they’re testing for is also present in these organs.
On top of this, it could support a change into how organs are stored, transported and even resuscitated after being donated, meaning that even more lungs, hearts and other organs and tissue will be available for transplant.