Winner: Xenotransplantation: A treatment for Kidney Failure
Organ transplantation can significantly enhance the lives of kidney failure patients. Implanting a functional kidney into a person suffering from renal failure results in several benefits. First, the patient recovers their health as the kidney functions every minute of every day. This avoids the need to spend hours every week attached to a dialysis machine and prevents the accumulation of toxins that build up in between sporadic dialysis sessions. In addition, transplant recipients have greater freedom to work and travel, and frequently live longer lives than dialysis can support. A key challenge to patients who need transplants is that there are too few human organs to ensure every person can have access to this therapy. Given this scarcity, difficult decisions must be made regarding which patients may receive a donor organ when it becomes available. Consequently, some patients never are added to the waitlist because their circumstances (health or otherwise) make it virtually impossible that they will be the ideal candidate for any organ. Those few patients who are lucky enough to be waitlisted, often receive a transplant only after three to five years have passed, if their health does not deteriorate to a point where they are no longer a good candidate. Our solution to the Artificial Kidney Prize is to develop xenotransplantation to dramatically increase the supply of donor kidneys with the hope of enabling any patient in need to receive a transplant in a timely manner. We intend to genetically engineer pig kidneys to make them perform life-sustaining functions over the long term when implanted into humans. If successful, these pig organs will work very similarly to transplanted human organs, affording the same benefits of freedom from dialysis and extending the length and quality of life.
Matt Tector, PhD received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, studying the cell and molecular biology of molecules that are key to organ transplantation. For over a decade, Dr. Tector has been studying the compatibility of genetically engineered pig tissues with human beings in an effort to create an unlimited supply of transplant donors to help every person suffering from end-stage kidney disease.