The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine–a nonprofit with more than 175,000 members including doctors, scientists, and laypeople–has launched a new effort today to encourage people to become organ and tissue donors to help scientists save human lives and reduce and replace animal experiments.
Human tissue is typically obtained in three ways: post-mortem from people who are organ donors, as surgery remnants, and via blood or other bodily fluids. But accessibility is often cited as one of the main barriers of using human tissues and cells for scientific advancement.
The Physicians Committee convened The Human Tissue Roundtable in October 2018 to address the issue. The roundtable speakers–scientists, policy experts, physicians, and leaders from U.S. federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations–covered the full spectrum of human tissue donation, from a transplant surgeon who initiates the cycle of tissue recovery in the operating room to a scientist who uses human cells to study drug development for preclinical trials.
The use of human tissues in scientific research has already improved health care by leading to discoveries in disease progression, drug development, and medical procedures.
Scientists have used human lung tissue derived from patients affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to discover a method for repairing lung tissue. Researchers have also used human skin cells left over from surgeries to develop a test that more accurately identifies skin irritants than animal tests. There have also been advancements in brain, heart, vision, and other areas of health research.
“Organs-on-chips, 3D bioprinting, and other cutting-edge methods that use human tissues produce results that better translate to human health,” says Physicians Committee research policy specialist Janine McCarthy, M.P.H., who recently presented her work on increasing the use of human tissue in medical research at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C.