Saving lives and reducing healthcare costs by increasing organ transplantation

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Approximately 65,000 people in the UK have end-stage renal failure, for whom a kidney transplant would offer a better quality of life. Historically, many donor kidneys were rejected with little empirical evidence because they were perceived to be ‘unsuitable for use’ or from ‘high-risk’ donors. A similar problem exists for livers, with a third of deceased donor livers being unused, while patients are dying through lack of a transplant.

A systematic programme of research led by the University of Cambridge has provided data demonstrating the quality and safety of organs that would previously have been rejected by many centres. They have pioneered techniques to allow rejected organs to be kept viable for assessment and successful transplantation e.g. ex vivo normothermic perfusion (EVNP) of kidneys.

EVNP technology is now used clinically in at least three kidney transplant centres in the UK and the Cambridge perfusion protocol has been adapted for clinical use in the Netherlands and the USA.

Their research has contributed to a 25% increase in the number of kidney transplants in the UK between 2013/14 and 2019/20, optimised usage of donor kidneys via a UK fast track scheme, informed national and international guidance on the allocation and safety of organs for transplantation, improved informed consent practice for transplant recipients across the UK, and spearheaded new technology to improve availability of donor organs.