First drone delivery of organ for human transplant

My late brother Mark was a transplant surgeon. He told me how sometimes he'd be woken up in the middle of the night to fly to a nearby city to retrieve, say, a kidney, from someone who had just died (frequently in a motorcycle crash), then carry the organ on a plane to another city where he'd install the kidney into a waiting patient, and then fly back home. (He felt it important to personally retrieve the organ that he'd then be transplanting.) I thought of that process while reading about the first drone delivery of a donated kidney that resulted in a successful transplant for a 40-year-old woman who had been on dialysis for 8 years. The drone delivery system was designed by researchers from the University of Maryland and organ donation nonprofit the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland. The kidney only traveled three miles but was a major step forward. From the New York Times:

The team’s leader, Dr. Joseph R. Scalea, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said he pursued the project after constant frustration over organs taking too long to reach his patients. After organs are removed from a donor, they become less healthy with each passing second. He recalled one case when a kidney from Alabama took 29 hours to reach his hospital.

The drone used in this month’s test had backup propellers and motors, dual batteries and a parachute recovery system, to guard against catastrophe if one component encountered a problem 400 feet in the air.

Read the rest

New 3D printed corneas could save millions of people's vision

Researchers have spent decades exploring methods to 3D print organs for transplant but progress is slow due to the complex structure of, say, a kidney or pancreas. Precise Bio, a startup founded by scientists from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, claim that the first real success will come from 3D-printed corneas. They've already conducted animal studies and are building a roadmap toward human trials. From IEEE Spectrum:

Corneas could be the first mainstream application of bioprinting, (Precise Bio CEO Aryeh) Batt says, in part because they have a layered structure that’s a good match for the technology. Each layer consists of different types of cells and fibers, which the printer could lay down in sequence, and these layers don’t contain blood vessels or nerves. What’s more, putting a new kind of transplant in the eye is inherently safer than implanting one deep in the body, since physicians could easily check for signs of trouble and could remove the tissue if anything seemed wrong.

There’s certainly a need for more corneas in the world, says Kevin Corcoran, president and CEO of the Eye Bank Association of America. In 2017, his members supplied nearly 51,000 transplantable corneas to patients in the United States, and also sent more than 26,000 abroad. Internationally, “there is a tremendous amount of unmet demand,” he says. “It’s estimated that 10 million people suffer from corneal blindness globally, primarily because they lack access to effective and affordable treatment.”

Part of Precise Bio’s proprietary approach is its printer, which uses a technique called laser-induced forward transfer to propel droplets of bioinks onto a surface.

Read the rest

Penis transplant successful

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore successfully completed the world's first scrotum-included penis transplant last month, restoring cock and balls to a soldier maimed by an IED in Afghanistan.

The 14-hour operation took place March 26 and involved nine plastic surgeons and two urological surgeons, transplanting the penis, scrotum and partial abdominal wall from a dead donor.

The donor's testes were not transplanted due to ethical guidelines, as the new owner may otherwise produce offspring with the donor's genetics. The recipient will not be able to father children.

“We are hopeful that this transplant will help restore near-normal urinary and sexual functions for this young man,” W.P. Andrew Lee, M.D., professor and director of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

The anonymous recipient is delighted with his new equipment: “When I first woke up, I felt finally more normal… [with] a level of confidence as well. Confidence… like finally I’m okay now.”

Doctors from the same team also performed America's first bilateral arm transplant.

The technical term for the operation is a vascularized composite allotransplantation, rewiring skin, muscles and tendons, nerves, bone and blood vessels. The patient will require a regimen of immunosuppressant medication.

Genital mutilation is reportedly a common but rarely-discussed outcome of IED blasts, with 2013 U.S. Department of Defense figures recording 1,367 servicemen having suffered genito-urinary injuries since the invasion of Afghanistan and Johns Hopkins describing lost penises as "an unspoken injury of war."

The New York Times reports two other penis transplants, though neither included the scrotum. Read the rest

Doctors perform first penis transplant in U.S.

Thomas Manning, 64, is recovering after receiving the first penis transplant in the United States. Manning had his penis amputated in 2012 due to penile cancer. It took 15 hours for surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital to complete the transplant, medically known as a "gentitourinary vascularized composite allograft." The surgery involved "grafting the complex microscopic vascular and neural structures of a donor organ onto the comparable structures of the recipient." According to the surgeons, the procedure could someday be used for gender reconstruction. From CNN:

Dr. Dicken Ko, director of the hospital's Regional Urology Program, said the objectives of the surgery were primarily to reconstruct the genitalia so that it appeared natural, followed by urinary function and hopefully sexual function. However, Ko added that while sexual function is a goal, reproduction is not, because of a concern surrounding the ethical issues of who the potential father may be.

Read the rest

Monkey head transplants coming soon in China?

Surgeon Xiaoping Ren at China's Harbin Medical University are planing to transplant the heads of long-tailed macaque monkeys. They've apparently tried it on hundreds of mice with at least some of the animals surviving for a few hours. Read the rest