TRANSPLANT CITY Will Chicago become the new organ supermarket?
SARAH MARTINSON AND BIANCA SMITH ILLUSTRATION BY TREVOR DAVIES
Chicago aims to be the organ transplant hub of the Midwest. Roughly 1,200 transplants were performed in Illinois’ nine transplant programs this past year, and CEO of Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network Keith Cmunt says the goal is to successfully complete 2,000 transplants annually by 2020. Echo spoke with doctors, scientists and healthcare professionals to find out what tools are being explored to get us there.
Immune Tolerance Induction (Veins) There’s no point in transplanting an organ if the body rejects it. So researchers are working on introducing factors to the blood that prevent the body from identifying new organs as foreign bodies warranting attack. “You can prevent both acute and chronic rejection, which cause organs to fail,” says Michael Abecassis, M.D., director of Northwestern Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Center. “By prolonging the life of each organ, and avoiding the need for a second or third transplant, we’re also increasing the pool or organs available for others to benefit from.”
Immunosuppression (Lymph Nodes) This technology is designed to stop the rejection of transplanted organs and tissue. Immunosuppressant drugs play a major role in the success—or failure—of the transplant process. “In the old days, if you got a transplant, you would literally take a fistful of anti-rejection drugs,” Cmunt says. “Now you might take five or six, and maybe in the future [it] will be down to less than that.”