I recently read an interesting article in The Economist on regulations surrounding lung transplants; in particular on the issue of children receiving adult lungs. The FDA normally requires children to only receive organs from other children, but these are not as readily available as adult organs.
In recent years, besides the development of artificial lungs, there has been a lot of progress in different approaches to optimize and expedite organ transplantations, including:
1) Researchers at Heriot Watt University successfully used a 3D printer to create human stem cells. This is a significant improvement because it leads to the possibility of full organ and tissue printing in the future.
2) Dr. Roger De Fillippo at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles has successfully used stem cells taken from amniotic fluid to heal damaged kidneys. He believes that the same stem cells can be directly injected into patients' diseased organ to heal and possibly regenerate it.
3) A small pilot study currently being conducted for a cell therapy that will induce the immune systems of patients to accept the donor kidney as their own despite the incompatibility. If successful, this could lead to the freeing of transplant patients from their lifetime reliance on anti-rejection drugs.
These studies and findings will drive the stem cell industry forward to improve the quality of life for transplant patients in particular, but for finding cures for unmet needs in general.