Replacing Organ Transplants with Organ Regeneration

The field of organ transplantation has made great strides from 1954, when the first organ transplant occurred in the United States. Without immunosuppressive drugs to prevent the rejection by the recipient of the organ, the only possible transplant was a kidney from a living donor to an identical twin recipient. Today, the list of patients in need of an organ for transplantation far exceeds the available supply.

Although the annual number of people in the United States who receive a kidney transplant is about 17,000, the number of people awaiting a transplant in 2011 was in excess of 87,000. The total number of people waiting for an organ transplant of any type in the United States exceeds 110,000. In fact, the issue of a shortage of available organs for transplantation is a worldwide problem.

The ethical issues surrounding organ donation have sparked debate. Surgeons struggle to reconcile the lives of their patients with issues such as gifting an organ for money or the issue of donors being compelled to give their consent to an organ donation.

Physicians and researchers such as Dr. Alan Russell, working in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and Dr. Susan Lim, who is exploring the transplantation of cells instead of organs, are looking for substitutes for how we currently respond to disease. Cell transplantation could circumvent the issues posed by whole organ transplantation.

Susan Lim, who pioneered liver transplantation in Asia, has turned her focus to cells. Implanting stem cells that can grow and cause the body to heal itself could replace whole organ transplants. Her early research using human fat stem cells harvested from adults focused on creating insulin-producing cells for the treatment of diabetes.

Embryonic stem cells were considered the most appropriate cells because of their ability to release growth factors to repair organs, muscles or other parts of the human body damaged by disease. Embryonic stem cell research comes with its own controversies. Although they offer the greatest ability to regenerate when transplanted, harvesting stem cells from human embryos has been at the center of controversy and debate in the United States and elsewhere.

Researchers are now exploring fat stem cells harvested from adults. The limitation with adult stem cells is that mature cells are more restrictive in their behaviors than embryonic stem cells. Restrictive behavior meant that the mature cells might not offer the growth factors needed to repair damaged organs.

Fortunately, other researchers working with mature stem cells have succeeded in reprogramming adult stem cells to produce the same results associated with embryonic stem cells. Reprogrammed adult cells eliminate the controversy that has delayed scientific studies dependent upon the collection of embryonic stem cells from human embryos.

The search to find the key to unlocking the secret to regenerating tissue and organs continues with stem cell research. Stem cells appear to offer the greatest hope for the development of less invasive ways to treat disease.

5 comments

  1. Dear Betchay,

    I am sorry if this is out of topic, as i do not know where to post this.
    Miss Betchay, i hope you can help my brother who is now working in a factory in Seoul. He has been experiencing skin allergies (hives) for unknown reason and that’s giving him a hard time to work. He asked if i could send him some medicines for his allergies so i bought some but unfortunately, when i went to the post office hoping i could send them, the officer was asking for a doctor’s prescription from Korea which i do not have.

    Miss Betchay, may i ask if you know any medicines that he can buy in Korea? An ointment or any medicine that he could take to ease the rashes in his skin. When he was still here, he used to take iterax (Generic Name: hydroxyzine hydrochloride) Thanks in advance. It will be a big help for my brother.

    More power to your blog Miss Betchay.

    1. Hi Charina! I think it’s best that he go to a doctor. It will only cost him 1,500-2500 won. The doctor could give him an injection and prescribe the appropriate medicine. If he couldn’t speak Korean, just ask him to show his skin. OR he could go to any pharmacy and ask for a medicine for his skin. It will cost him less than 10,000 won, but going to the doctor is cheaper.

      Anyway, medicines that contain the ingredient you wrote are: 유시락스 (yoo-si-raks), 아디팜 (a-di-pam), 센티락스 (sen-ti-raks)

      1. Hi Miss Betchay,

        Thank you so much for the response. Yes, you are right and i also told him that it is best for him to see a doctor. Anyway, i will tell him about those drugs that you listed, and maybe he can try to purchase in the nearest drug store to his workplace. I actually told him a lot of times already to try to drop by a drugstore and just show his skin to the pharmacist, but he kept on telling me that drugstores are far from he works. I think he’s just shy to ask.

        I want to thank you again Miss Betchay and wishing you, your baby and your Korean husband a beautiful life together in Korea, may He bless you abundantly too. Take care always. 🙂

        1. Hello,Miss Betchay! I just want to ask some help about getting a teaching job here in Korea. I am a BEED graduate with specialization in elementary English and I am almost done with my Masters Degree in the Philippines this March 2014 major in Linguistics. My experience regarding ESL teaching is for more than three years however, I do not have much sources and references of applying for a job. Do you think I qualify for the standards of teaching here? I have an F6 visa and I have just arrived here last June 17 ,2013. I have already received my Alien Card. It has been three weeks that I am here and it seems I miss working since I left alone most of the time in our house because my husband is working. We already talked about it and if I get into a job, there will be no problem because I will be into teaching English. I will take advantage of this time of having a job because we do not have babies yet. I hope you could give me more information. Looking forward to hearing from you soon..

          1. Hi Maria! If you want to work in hagwons, try to apply to them directly. If you have a Masters degree, you might be able to apply for jobs at universities. You’ve been here for only three weeks, enjoy your free time first. Try to explore your neighborhood and learn Korean while you’re applying for jobs. Don’t worry ‘coz with your qualification, it wouldn’t take time before you could get your first job here. You might also want to visit the site http://www.hunjang.co.kr and apply for jobs there.

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