Carnegie Mellon University

Air transport of organ donation for transplantation

May 17, 2024

Tepper School Scholar's Innovations Address Geographic and Donor Supply Challenges in Organ Transplantation

By Sheila Davis

Sheila Davis
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In the United States, organs from deceased donors are allocated regionally rather than nationally. This system often favors very wealthy recipients with the means to travel, leading to disparities in access to organ transplants. Medical professionals, patients, families, and researchers are advocating for greater access to organs and improved equity in the donor organ transplantation process.

In a recent article published in Decision Sciences, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business introduces two innovative solutions he developed and implemented.  OrganJet aims to rectify geographic inequities by facilitating the transportation of patients who are not wealthy via private jets, while Nudge Videos tackle the shortage of organ supply by encouraging next of kin to consider organ donation from deceased patients.

Photo of Sridhar Tayur“These ideas should inspire our community to apply our skills, talent, and energies to tackle important societal problems, not just in organ transplantation or health care, but more broadly across a variety of disciplines,” explains Sridhar Tayur, Ford distinguished research chair and university professor of operations management at the Tepper School.

 Tayur, who previously did not have direct experience with the transplantation system,  recognized the national need and felt compelled to take action. In 2011, he founded OrganJet with the vision of providing equal opportunities for all patients to access necessary care, regardless of their financial means.

Tayur’s second innovation is Nudge Videos. The United States has an opt-in system for becoming a donor, which means that individuals have to give consent and are not organ donors by default. Frequently, medical professionals ask next of kin to provide consent to use the organs of deceased patients. To boost this consent, Tayur created Nudge Videos, which emphasizes the benefits of being a donor. The videos discourage negative feelings based on religion or minority membership using interviews with people who are demographically representative of next of kin. Each consent can help up to eight organ transplant patients and 75 tissue recipients. In 2016, the Obama White House highlighted this as one of the top innovations in organ donation.

Tayur is collaborating with doctors from the University of California San Francisco and colleagues from the Tepper School to improve liver transplant fairness for both men and women and to adapt transplants for different body sizes using split liver transplantation, which divides a donor liver for two recipients. They are also exploring a technique called machine perfusion to increase liver availability by preserving organ quality before transplantation.