Tissue Donation for Research can Drive Medical Breakthroughs

End-of-life donation to support scientific research is coming into focus as an option for many people, especially when clinical transplantation is not possible due to trauma, advanced age, or serious illness. By saying yes to research, donors can support medical breakthroughs that can help thousands of others.

LifeNet Health has been a leader among U.S. tissue banks in accepting non-transplantable organs and tissue for research. We are uniquely positioned to do this thanks to well-established vertically integrated processes that cover the donation continuum, from consent to recovery to preserving biospecimens in line with industry best practices. We partner with top researchers working to advance medical breakthroughs around the world. We also have internal scientists that conduct research into how to improve outcomes for patients who need transplants. In addition, we conduct internal research to provide solutions for drug safety and development.

The Process

Some patients may consent in advance to research donation at the end of life to help others with a related condition. One example is our end-of-life brain donation program, which is open to patients in Northern Florida and Virginia who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.

Others who die in the hospital can be evaluated for research and clinical donation in one step, using our standard referral process.

Reasons to Support Research Donation

There are many reasons community partners should support end-of-life research donation when it makes sense for patients and families. This emerging multidisciplinary field – known by various terms, including life sciences or translational medicine – is a blend of medicine, biology, and engineering. The goal is to revolutionize care for patients by advancing safer, personalized therapeutic interventions to address or even cure chronic illnesses.

Impact

Research donations can lead to medical breakthroughs that will impact thousands of others. These gifts are a key to helping scientists understand the progression of complex diseases, such as liver fibrosis, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s, dementia, autism and more. Healthy and diseased tissues are needed to enable scientific work focused on the development of next-generation treatment options. Hundreds of researchers can benefit from the cells and tissue provided by a single donor.

Safety

Toxicology is the field of science dedicated to predicting adverse effects from chemical exposure. This is a key part of evaluating new drugs and other compounds before they come on the market. This can impact everything from pharmaceutical therapies to pesticides.

In the past, much of this work has relied on animal studies, but increasingly the evidence is clear that human cells can provide more accurate, relevant results – making the testing process faster, less expensive, and easier. All this contributes to keeping people safer in the long run. Organs and tissues from research donors can support these efforts – and are essential to helping researchers move away from animal studies.

Why LifeNet Health

Non-transplantable organ and tissue donations are coordinated through LifeNet Health LifeSciences, which supports hundreds of top researchers around the world. We are committed to respecting the dignity of all donors. Our LifeSciences division screens every research project to ensure alignment with donor and family wishes. Our researchers help make sure families know the impact of their loved one's gifts by sending letters of gratitude through the Thanks2You program.

LifeNet Health LifeSciences also offers:

  • In-house world-class scientists with expertise in isolating, preserving, and characterizing cells, which is essential for research. This can help donors and their families feel confident that their gifts will be put to the best and highest use in service to others.
  • Toxicology testing services to determine the safety of compounds, in addition to partnering with many pharmaceutical companies and other groups to support safety testing. LifeNet Health LifeSciences also has a continued focus on improving toxicology methods to help make the testing more effective.
  • Innovative solutions to support scientific breakthroughs, including the development of a pioneering liver cell system to help scientists get more predictable, reliable results.

Donor Family Support

LifeNet Health offers 30-plus months of ongoing support – a gold standard – for each research donor family as they navigate their grief journey. Our Donor Family Services program has been developed with input from donor families and national grief experts. Our Healing the Spirit website offers resources and support.

About Us

LifeNet Health is the only full-service tissue bank serving Virginia, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest. We offer a full range of end-to-end services, covering all facets of the tissue donation continuum – resulting in a streamlined experience for partners. This sets us apart from tissue recovery agencies, which rely on secondary processors, creating the need for variations in procedures. Learn more.