The life-saving practice of organ transplantation has come a long way over the centuries. Today, more than 30,000 kidney, heart, lung, and other organ transplants happen each year. In honor of National Donor Day, here are a few facts about the history and the current practice of organ donation.
1. THE FIRST ORGAN TRANSPLANT TOOK PLACE IN 800 BCE.
Skin, the body’s largest organ, was also the first to be transplanted. Researchers have found evidence that Indian doctors pioneered the use of skin grafts to repair injuries. In 500 BCE, a doctor named Sushruta performed the first rhinoplasty procedure by taking skin from a patient’s forehead and transplanting it to the nose.
2. A 16TH CENTURY ITALIAN SURGEON DISCOVERED ORGAN REJECTION.
Gaspare Tagliacozzi, a renowned physician at the University of Bologna, further refined Sushruta’s rhinoplasty procedure, refashioning the noses of maimed soldiers using skin from the inside of the arm. He also developed procedures to repair lips and ears using transplanted skin from a person’s own body. But when Tagliacozzi tried to graft skin from a different donor, the body would reject the transplant. His notes on organ rejection marked an early recognition of a problem that would stymie organ transplants for centuries to come.
3. IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY, DOCTORS TRANSPLANTED ANIMAL ORGANS TO HUMANS.
Going back as far as the 17th century, doctors transfused animal blood into humans. In the 19th century, animal-human skin grafts were quite popular, with frogs being the preferred species. By the 20th century, physicians were transplanting parts from rabbits, pigs, dogs, and other animals into human patients, none of whom lived more than a few days following their operations.
4. THE FIRST CORNEAL TRANSPLANT HAPPENED IN 1905.
Modern physicians still marvel at the procedure, undertaken by Austrian ophthalmologist Eduard Zirm. Using corneas taken from a child donor, Zirm successfully grafted them onto a 45-year-old farmworker, who had lost most of his eyesight in an accident. Zirm’s success is credited to sanitary conditions that were ahead of their time, and ophthalmologists today still use techniques that evolved from his original procedure.
5. CHARLES LINDBERGH CONTRIBUTED TO ORGAN TRANSPLANT TECHNOLOGY.
Known as a daring flyer, Lindbergh was also an accomplished mechanic who thrilled to an engineering challenge. After working for several years with transplant pioneer Dr. Alexis Carrel, in 1935 the two unveiled the perfusion pump, an intricate glass mechanism that could preserve organs outside the…
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