The Organ Preservation Alliance, supported by the Methuselah Foundation and incubated at SU Labs at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, targets a neglected area of research and medicine underlying one of the world’s largest and most well-hidden killers: limitations in organ and tissue storage. Organ and tissue banking can have far reaching effects on treatments for major age-related diseases including Diabetes, Cancer and Heart Disease, while also accelerating the pace of medical research and serving as an enabler of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and use of humanized xeno-organs. Technologies to cryopreserve and bank human organs and other tissues for use on-demand can prevent or delay millions of deaths each year worldwide – and make millions more patients, both old and young, healthier.
Just one example: roughly 30-35% of all deaths in the U.S. are caused by organ impairment, an end result of many of the most prominent age-related diseases and disorders including heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic liver disease, Diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Summing across all organs, organ impairment is the #1 killer in the U.S. – bigger even than cancer. Because of this, peer-reviewed publications have estimated that the ability to replace vital organs on demand would increase the likelihood of living to the age of 80 2-fold and increase the likelihood of living to the age of 90 by almost 20-fold while treating major causes of morbidity – adding healthy years or even healthy decades to millions of lives.
Organ banking would have an immediate impact on numerous other aspects of organ replacement, preventing many organs from going unused or being discarded, increasing transplant organ lifespans (currently less than 10 years for many organs), preventing rejection by the recipient’s immune system, enabling technologies to better test organs or augment their function, and more.
Organ and tissue banking has also been identified by many experts as a key barrier to advances in tissue engineering. It has already become one of the greatest bottlenecks in our ability to replace aged and dysfunctional organs and tissues with ‘spare parts.’ Cell therapy and other regenerative medicine solutions face their own storage constraints; these problems will only grow as more therapies come online, until cryopreservation and banking challenges are seriously confronted.
Yet despite the fact that over $50 billion in U.S. federal research funding each year goes to agencies with missions that are impacted by organ and tissue banking, almost no funding goes to this area. As a result, one of the cornerstones regenerative medicine has become an orphaned field, as promising research leads that could help control and stop biological time – enabling indefinite banking of organs and other complex tissues – have been left unexplored and rapid advances in complementary fields such as nanotechnology, cellular stress, metabolism, gene editing, and many others have yet to be adequately applied to tackle cryopreservation challenges.
The Organ Preservation Alliance is a non-profit organization that is partnered with New Organ, supported by the Methuselah Foundation and leading a growing effort to confront the grand challenge of organ and complex tissue banking. We are bringing together a large network of scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and government representatives to make storage limitations for human hearts, kidneys, blood vessels, and many other spare parts obsolete, saving millions of lives and accelerating progress toward extending healthy life.
During 2015 our efforts resulted in the 1st Global Organ Banking Summit with events at Stanford, NASA, and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where the world’s leading biopreservation scientists outlined the remaining ‘sub-challenges’ that need to be overcome to stop biological time in human organs. With our partner organization New Organ (also a project of the Methuselah Foundation), leading scientists and government funding agencies, we have begun a National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Technology Roadmap to Organ Banking and Bioengineering (for a copy, email email@example.com). As a result of advocacy by the Organ Preservation Alliance and its larger scientific network, we have also seen multiple government grant pipelines launched targeted toward achieving organ complex tissue banking – a first in history.
We owe many thanks to the Methuselah Foundation for its generous support, and to New Organ for its continued collaboration, as well as its dedication to the cause of ending the organ shortage and thereby extending healthy human life.
To find out more, visit organpreservationalliance.org, check out the proceedings from leading scientists at the 1st Global Organ Banking Summit in the journal Cryobiology by visiting this link, or watch our short presentation here.
To volunteer or learn about other ways you can help the Organ Preservation Alliance transform regenerative medicine and other areas, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about how you can support the work of the Methuselah Foundation, touch here