Organ donation

Apparently there are plans to introduce an opt-out system of organ donation in England, after the Scottish government has announced to introduce such system there. An opt-out system means that every person is automatically an organ donor unless he/she or his/her next of kin objects.

Though opt-out systems exist across the world, many countries still have the opposite system. And the transition to an opt-out system is often controversial, for instance a similar law was only approved in the Dutch lower house because a single MP (who opposed the change) missed his train.

However, the entire concept of organ donation as know it today, is likely to become obsolete in the next few decades. One promising approach is developed by Hans Clevers and his colleagues. This method involves injecting a sick organ with stem cells from a healthy, living, donor, which will subsequently be able to recover.

The benefit of this method is that people do not have to wait until another person dies. Though we still need stem cell donors, this will be closer to the donation of blood. And from the latter practice we could safely assume that a great number of people would willing to become stem cell donors.

In some cases this method will not work and one still needs a complete new organ. But in those cases 3D-printed organs could soon become the preferred alternative. Within a few years it would be possible to print the collagen scaffold which gives organs their structure, and inject it with the right tissue types.

And no, organ printing is definitely not science fiction and in fact the developments in this field are progressing quickly. It is not the question if but when lab grown organs will be available.