Researchers from the University of Maryland Medical Center recently built a drone to send a kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The drone was designed to monitor the organ in real time and send updates to personnel handling it. It was successfully delivered on April 19.
The recipient of the organ was a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore who had been on dialysis for eight years before undergoing the kidney transplant. She was discharged from the hospital last week.
"This whole thing is amazing. Years ago, this was not something that you would think about," E. Albert Reece, executive vice president of medical affairs, said in a statement.
“As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation,” project lead Joseph Scalea added.
Before delivering the kidney, the scientists tested out the device by flying other items, including saline, blood tubes and a healthy but nonviable human kidney.
Through their efforts, they believe organ delivery can be safer and more affordable.
"There remains a woeful disparity between the number of recipients on the organ transplant waiting list and the total number of transplantable organs. This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation," Scalea said. "Delivering an organ from a donor to a patient is a sacred duty with many moving parts. It is critical that we find ways of doing this better."