Senior Science Society: ‘The Past, Present and Future of Organ Transplant Surgery’.

Last week, Aayan Q (L6th) gave a talk in Senior Science Society: ‘The Past, Present and Future of Organ Transplant Surgery’. Read on to find out more.


Writes Aayan Q (L6th)


I began my talk with the origins of the procedure. The story began with the first attempt at a surgical process evocative of an organ transplant was in 1902 when Alexis Carrel (a newly trained surgeon) became the first person to successfully join together two blood vessels. Alexis would go on to become a crucial figure in the birth of organ transplantation, as he would spend the next decade perfecting the physical technique of removing and reattaching organs.

However, the first successful organ transplant was not until 1954 when Dr Joseph Murray transplanted a kidney from Mr Ronald Herrick to his twin brother, Richard Herrick, at Brigham Hospital in Boston. Richard had chronic kidney failure and was expected to die when Dr Murray realised he had a twin in Ronald. The fact that they were identical meant that Richard would not reject Ronald’s kidney, thus overcoming the biggest hurdle in transplantation up until that point.

Though the 1954 kidney transplant what a gargantuan step forward in the field, transplantation between a non-identical donor and recipient was yet to be cracked. Nevertheless, the solution presented itself in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the form of immunosuppressants. These suppressed the immune response of the recipient so that they would not reject an organ that was not exactly identical.

I then moved on to discussing the current situation of transplant surgeries by delving into the multistep process of receiving an organ which included everything from the initial test being taken on the patient to see if they are fit for a kidney, to the post procedural care they receive after the transplant. I also explained the process of removing and attaching an organ and how different vessels and airways must be operated on depending on the organ. Next, I spoke about the current limitations of organ transplants. These limitations included the fact that certain organs (such as the brain) cannot be transplanted, that the waiting list times are incredibly long (typically 3-5 years), that those who have had a transplant are on immunosuppressants so are more susceptible to communicable diseases and that the cost of organ transplants in countries which do not have a taxpayer funded healthcare is extremely high (is the USA it ranges from $400000-$1200000).

This then led into the final part of my talk: the future. Here I talked about xenotransplantation (transplantation of organs between species) and the concept of 3D printing organs. Both concepts aimed to tackle the current limitations of transplantation, such as the long waiting lists and shortage of organs. However, each had their own limitations: with xenotransplantation, humans are at risk of contracting animal viruses and with 3D printing, we currently to not have the technology to successfully print regular sized complex organs. 

All in all, I greatly enjoyed giving a talk on a topic that I was so interested in and would encourage anyone else who is passionate about a particular scientific field to give a talk in Senior Science Society.

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