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Round-Up: Organ Donation in the News

Written by Zoe Engels, Contributing Writer and Editor


Organ, eye, and tissue donation are constantly evolving thanks to new scientific advances and expanded advocacy efforts, like the work done by SODA chapter members. While there’s still a long way to go, with more than 103,000 people on the transplant waiting list, we want to take a moment to celebrate the wins. Check out our round-up of some recent, exciting news in the world of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and tell us if you caught these stories in the news!


Walter Tauro, an 87-year-old man from Markham, Ontario, recently proved that age may be just a number. Guinness World Records has officially recognized him as the oldest person ever to have received a kidney transplant. Tauro underwent the procedure in June 2023 after having been on dialysis for four years. While Tauro had been advised that his age might pose a risk or hinder his transplant, he decided he wanted to live happily and chose to pursue the transplant. Based on his overall health, not his age, Tauro was eligible and able to proceed. After a lengthy recovery process, Tauro’s hopes were fulfilled and his kidney is now functioning well.


In a ground-breaking procedure recently performed by Harvard Medical School physician-scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, an edited pig kidney was successfully transplanted into 62-year-old patient Richard Slayman. The patient had previously received a human kidney transplant, but it showed signs of failure after five years, and he ended up back on dialysis. Xenotransplantation is the process of transplanting organs or tissues from other animals. To reduce the chance of rejection, scientists modified the pig kidney to be more compatible with humans. Slayman also began taking new medication designed to suppress immune reactions against this transplanted pig tissue. Although many question marks remain and scientists need to see the longevity of the transplanted organ, this procedure still marks a significant milestone in xenotransplantation—a process that could one day help alleviate the kidney shortage while making kidney transplants more accessible for all populations.


Students, have you considered hosting an event to discuss organ donation news? Check out our Resource Guides for more inspiration and event guidance.


According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the UW Health Transplant Center, transplanted kidneys now have a greater success rate and duration than ever before, and kidney transplant recipients are living longer than in previous decades. Although the study does not account for the low supply of and high demand for kidneys and includes outcomes from only one center, it provides valuable insights. In the study, the research team analyzed the outcomes of 12,000 kidney transplants performed across the years at the UW Health Transplant Center to draw their conclusions.


On her 47th birthday in September of 2023, Bobbie Bridges was placed on the transplant waiting list for a new liver. Then, on December 19 of that same year, she was given a second chance at life. Her transplant surgeon was Dr. William Chapman of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Dr. Chapman uses an important, emerging technique to recover and restore livers that other transplant centers have previously rejected. This technique is called Normothermic Machine Perfusion (NMP). The perfusion device circulates oxygenated and warmed blood-based perfusate, a type of fluid, through the organ to oxygenate it, helping with organ preservation. NMP could be used to increase organ viability, thereby increasing the number of transplants that can be performed.


Russ Redhead and James Harris Jr. have a playful rivals-turned-friends story that is definitely worth sharing. According to The Washington Post, The two were “friendly adversaries” in pool halls across Maryland and Pennsylvania. When Harris beat Redhead for a paid trip to a tournament in Las Vegas about 10 years ago, things changed. Harris criticized Redhead online, claiming his opponent had cheated. Eventually, he apologized to Harris and has now more than made up for his sore loss. On February 8, 2024, he donated a kidney to Harris. Redhead told The Washington Post that he was happy to give Harris more time with his family—and to play pool. The average wait time for a kidney in the U.S. is three to five years. Thanks to his living donor, Harris only spent two years on the waiting list. 


If you want to help bring more exciting organ, eye, and tissue donation news to the world through your advocacy and education efforts, sign up to start a chapter on your campus or host a one-off event by visiting sodanational.org/students.

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