CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s been 50 years since the first organ transplant in Chicago, but what does the next 50 years hold?
In February of 1964, Michael Reese Hospital performed the first kidney transplant in Chicago and just a few days later on Feb. 18, Northwestern surgeons performed their first.
As Northwestern Memorial Hospital celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first organ transplant, doctors were urging people to sign up as donors as part of National Donate Life Month in April.
WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports more than 120,000 people are on a waitlist for an organ transplant in the U.S.
Dr. Michael Abecassis, with Northwestern Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Center, said that number continues to rise, but the number of available organs has remained flat.
“The good news is that we are performing more transplants than ever but the bad news is that we are victims of our own success. There is still thousands of people on the wait list,” he said.
That’s why awareness is key.
Abacassis said the next frontier for organ transplants is building organs from stem cells.
New research is being done to pioneer ways of growing organs and improving organ compatibility using stem cells and modified regulatory T-cells. These methods would also reduce or eliminate the need for expensive and often harmful anti-rejection drugs.
“We have the technology right now to build organs. The technology’s here, now we just need to do it,” he said.