Monday 2nd September marks the start of Organ Donation Week, a time to highlight the importance of organ donation and celebrate the selflessness of donors. Currently over 6,300 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant, and sadly everyday around three people die waiting. As part of the efforts to increase the number of donors and reduce some of these preventable deaths, England is moving to an “opt out” system in 2020. Unless they have recorded a decision not to donate, or are in one of the excluded groups, all adults in England will be considered an organ donor.
While this approach will hopefully lead to a reduction in how long a patient has to wait for a suitable organ for transplant, it doesn’t address the other main issue of transplantation – rejection. Transplant recipients’ immune systems recognize donor organs as “foreign” and can attack them in a bid to eliminate them from the body. Immunosuppressive drugs can help to minimise the magnitude of rejection but are not always successful long-term and their use comes with adverse effects of their own.