Newsletter August 2017
SCPI is moving to end Human Trafficking for Organ Transplant
The problem: Organ demand surpasses supply
Organ transplantation was once considered an experimental procedure with a low success rate. Many patients with transplanted organs survived for just a few days or weeks after surgery. Researchers have now transformed transplant surgery from risky to routine. Today, organ transplantation is the treatment of choice for patients with end-stage organ disease. In the United States, about 80 patients receive a lifesaving organ transplant every day.
The kidney is the most commonly transplanted organ, followed by liver, heart, lungs, pancreas and intestines. The median wait time for a kidney transplant is 3.6 years and the need for kidneys is growing at an alarming rate. This is largely due to kidney failure being a consequence of diabetes and high blood pressure. The current problem is that there are not enough organs available to meet this demand. This has led to the rise of an international organ harvesting black market, which intentionally targets poor and vulnerable communities.
The buying and selling of organs is illegal. According to the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, purchasing a kidney is against the US law. Organ transaction for profit clashes with the “Human Cell Tissue and Organ Transplantation” guiding principles of The World Health Organization. It is also prohibited by the Council of Europe Convention of Human Rights and Biomedicine. Iran is the only country in which legal organ markets exist. Sound Choice is alarmed about the disregard for the health and safety of the poor and vulnerable who sell their organs on the black market. The current system is, either legally or illegally, manipulating vulnerable donors into a situation where they only see an immediate financial incentive that may solve a short-term predicament, such as, putting food on the table. There is a high likelihood that most of these donors are insufficiently screened and given inadequate post-op care. Moreover, they may have no recourse if something goes wrong after they have received their payment.
Pro-commercialization arguments reason that the act of selling kidneys is one’s own choice, hence, organ commercialization should be legalized. However, our research suggests corruption and manipulation is not going to change with an open market. If legalized, one could expect numbers of injuries and deaths due to organ transplantation in vulnerable populations to rise.
The solution: Stem cell therapies to replace organ transplantation
“Human exploitation and trafficking is a global issue, how do we all get involved in this issue? At SCPI we are doing scientific research to find solutions. Our goal is to replace organ transplantation with stem cell therapy. When stem cell therapy regenerates damaged organs, the demand for organ transplant will go down. When a cure for failing organs is available, the demand for transplantable organs will diminish, as will the need for suppliers. And so, the organ black market would dissolve.
Most importantly during our research, SCPI insists on an ethical stem cell therapy method cell therapy, because are we really doing the right thing if we use embryonic stem cells to replace organ harvesting? The source of the stem cells is important. Embryonic stem cells are used frequently in stem cell research, development and applications, and have been claimed to be “the best” therapy alternative for organ black market transplants.
SCPI is set on finding alternatives to embryonic stem cell therapy. The need for alternatives is not only based on ethics, but is also based on treatment safety for patients. Embryonic stem cells are tumorigenic by nature. Dr. Deisher and others have found that there are ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell therapies, and she believes that everyone deserves the right to know about and financially afford the alternatives. Her vision is Sound Choice’s vision, but it goes even beyond that. This vision is the driving force of all the biotechnology research efforts that Sound Choice supports: to provide safe, effective and affordable alternatives thus ending human exploitation and trafficking in biomedical research.
Dr. Deisher has been leading scientists to push adult stem cell therapies into the clinical trial phase – the final step before treatments can reach patients worldwide. The biggest project that they are currently focused on is to launch a small molecule that optimizes the targeting, retention and effectiveness of ethically derived stem cells. This is a major breakthrough as Dr. Deisher’s team was the first to discover the hurdles that limit the clinical and commercial potential of adult cell-based therapies, and to develop a solution to those hurdles. Dr. Deisher and her team have been able to deliver up to 30-fold more stem cells to damaged organs, making the dream of replacing organ transplant with stem cell therapy a near-term reality. To continue the success of this research and make sure we are developing a method that brings ethical stem cells to the organ, we need your financial partnership. That’s the current hurdle. Dr. Deisher’s team has discovered a solution that will make stem cell treatment instead of organ harvesting and transplanting a near term reality, but without continued financial support we will not be able to get this treatment into the arms of the public. Will you join us in this mission? Please support this cause that will be impacting the most vulnerable populations of our world.