Exciting scientific work:
Organs and tissues can become decullularized after exposure to ordinary detergents over the course of a few days because the soaps disrupt the cellular membranes, which can then be rinsed clear of the supportive tissue. A series of chemicals are then used to make sure that all cells have been eliminated, leaving only a scaffold of cartilage and collagen. A patient’s stem cells are then coated over the structure and are given growth factors to help them grow and differentiate into the desired cells and the organ is complete for transplant, with no fear of rejection.
This technique is still emerging and has plenty of obstacles, but it holds a great deal of promise. Researchers and physicians hope that in the future this will alleviate strain on those in need of a new organ. In the US, there are currently over 114,000 people waiting on a transplant list, and about 18 of them die every day while waiting for the lifesaving call. Only about 10% of the organs needed are donated each year.
In the meantime, there are other options. Portions of pig organs, particularly hearts, have been used in transplants. Rejection can be high due to a sugar molecule that is not welcomed by our immune systems. This is getting better due to genetic modification of the pigs and medications that suppress the immune system.