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Organ Replacement Technologies: A New Frontier

Authors: Laurie Barclay, MDFaculty and Disclosures



Despite practical advances in transplantation medicine, the critical shortage of human donor organs severely limits widespread clinical use. Developing alternative sources of cells, organs, and implantable devices for replacement, regeneration, or mechanical assistance of failing organs is, therefore, paramount. Rather than competing with each other, these techniques can be complementary, with advances in one type jump-starting progress in another. One technique can buy time while a patient awaits application of another, or 2 or more techniques can be combined.

"To solve the transplantation crisis, we need to close the gap between the organ shortage and the demand for organ substitutes, which will take a while," Robert M. Nerem, PhD, of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told Medscape (personal communication, 2/14/03). "What's nice about this meeting is its focus on important targets, like the heart and other vital organs." Although progress has been greater in skin substitutes and orthopaedic applications, only replacement of vital organs can lighten the heavy burden of chronic disease.

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