The Military’s Organ and Tissue Banking

Imagine no waiting lists for organ transplants.

Organ and Tissue banking

(Photo obtained with permission from 21st Century Medicine/Released)

According to leading scientists and surgeons in the field this reality may not be far away. For the first time ever, the DoD’s three innovation grant topics on banking beckon a revolution in the field.

For more detail on the grant programs as well as the huge value for military and civilian medicine and health, click here. 

Organ and tissue banking is a longstanding medical goal that has historically seen only incremental progress.

But with recent progress as a foundation and the new targeted government grants via the DoD’s three new small business innovation research (SBIR) programs on organ and tissue banking the needed breakthroughs might be within sight.

“The supply of tissues is one of the major constraints we face in transplantation medicine today, and organ banking technology would dramatically help resolve it. This is a major step forward in the field of transplantation,” said Harvard Medical School Professor Bohdan Pomahac.

Currently, we can only store most organs from 3-12 hours, so many viable transplant organs are discarded. If we could store organs for 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of patients who would otherwise be on the waiting lists could get the transplants they need.

Leading scientists in the field have broken the problem down into six discrete engineering challenges, and these SBIR efforts will spur application of cutting edge research in other fields to these challenges.

Challenge six problems

“Progress in cryobanking would be game-changing and would enable our ever-improving transplantation abilities to help maimed American servicemen, as well as firefighters, factory workers, or civilians and children around the world injured by landmines,” said Dr. W.P. Andrew Lee.  Lee performed the nation’s first military double-arm transplants and is Director of the Department of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins.

An ever increasing shortage of organs and tissues leads to millions of premature deaths and results in massive costs to society.

The ability to bank organs and tissues would have an immediate impact on transplant medicine, surgical cancer treatment, the treatment of combat trauma and industrial accidents, and on the ability to prepare for mass casualty events. And, based on progress over the last 10 years it now looks like the capabilities may for the first time be within reach.

“The impact of a true organ and tissue banking capability on how we treat our war wounded would be enormous; the impact on broader civilian healthcare would be even larger.  If we can make a strong push in advancing this field we may see breakthroughs sooner than we think.” – Lt. Col. Luis M. Alvarez, Ph.D

Lt. Col. Alvarez is the author of the three SBIR topics and former co-founding Deputy Director of the DoD’s Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Program that oversees the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

For more information regarding what leading scientists and surgeons are saying about these SBIR efforts, click here.

Lt. Col. Luis M. Alvarez is currently the Director of the Center for Molecular Science and Academy Professor at the United States Military Academy. He is also the founding principal investigator of the Regenerative Biology Research Group at the National Cancer Institute where he oversees numerous DoD funded projects in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

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