- A drone has delivered a kidney to a transplant patient in an apparent world first.
- The researcher leading the project hailed it as a triumph, and described it as “Uber for organs.”
- The patient, a 44-year old nursing assistant from Baltimore, spent the last eight years on dialysis.
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Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center are celebrating successfully carrying a kidney to a transplant patient using a drone, in what they claim is a world first.
The university published a video following the test delivery, although it is not made clear how far the organ travelled and what kind of advantage this gave the researchers over traditional transportation.
Moving organs is an incredibly time-sensitive task, as they only remain viable for transport for a short amount of time. Using a drone theoretically allows medics to bypass traffic and other potential complications.
The drone was not just a delivery vehicle either. It was able to monitor and maintain vital criteria like the kidney’s temperature in real-time. It was also fitted with backup propellers, dual batteries, and a parachute to protect its precious payload.
Dr. Joseph Scalea, an assistant professor of surgery at the university, said in a press statement that the technology would allow patients to be implanted with more “marginal” organs — organs that wouldn’t be viable if there was any kind of time delay — and could end up adding “as many as 2,500 kidneys a year” to the donor pool.
“It’s like Uber for organs,” Scalea told The New York Times, which reported that the drone flew 44 test flights over 700 hours in preparation.
The recipient of the kidney was Trina Glispy, a 44-year-old nursing assistant from Baltimore who had spent eight years on dialysis before the transplant.
“I feel very fortunate, especially after watching so many people pass being on dialysis,” Glipsy told the Times. According to the university press release, she was discharged from the hospital last Tuesday.
You can watch the drone’s flight here:
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