Current ODT research

Most of the studies supported by the ODT Research team receive organs that have been retrieved from organ donors for the purpose of transplantation. However, upon assessment on the back bench or at the recipient centre, the organ is deemed to be unsuitable for transplant.

If the donor family has given consent or authorisation for the organs to be used in research (or other/scheduled purposes e.g. education/training, audit) then these untransplantable organs can be offered to studies listed on the ODT Research Registry. This form of consent or authorisation for research is known as generic.

Some studies remove untransplantable tissue purely for research. HTA licencing must be considered for this type of study, and the local Specialist Nurse team will be trained to faciliate it. This type of consent or authorisation is known as (study-)specific. Studies that carry out interventions to an organ donor in order to increase the transplantability of the organs they have donated can also fall under this category.

A small number of studies take place without the need for consent or authorisation, because they are service evaluations (e.g. they are measuring an existing process rather than deriving new knowledge).

The team also supports qualitative research projects, often carried out as part of an educational qualification. These usually involve interviews of the Specialist Nurses.

The History of ODT Research

Historically, UK Transplant (UKT) - now NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) - supported a body of research focused primarily on the considerable expertise in clinical audit and development of models of selection, allocation and outcomes. This work, delivered primarily by what is now the Department of Statistics and Clinical Audit (which sits within the Clinical Directorate), was carried out in conjunction with the clinicians working through the Advisory Groups.

This work has attracted international acclaim and has had a considerable impact on the national and international reputation of NHSBT as well as directly contributing to better patient outcomes. On a smaller scale, Advisory Groups have worked to support clinical trials. The research done in Organ Donation and Transplantation (ODT) has been largely supported by research grants. The Directions for NHSBT require that NHSBT ‘conduct or commission such research within the field of organ donation and transplantation as NHSBT considers appropriate’ (3(1)(k)).

The merger of UKT with the National Blood Service (NBS) to form NHSBT has, amongst other consequences, allowed ODT access to some of the resources within the combined organisation. This resource has resulted in several initiatives, including access to NHSBT Research and Development (R&D) funding which has supported several studies and clinical fellows.

Currently, in the UK most research into the areas of organ donation and transplantation is undertaken by scientists and clinicians, largely working outside NHSBT and continues to be very successful at an international level. Transplant Units have developed their own programmes of research, often with funding from national and international bodies as well as industry. Most transplant units also have effective collaborations with more basic transplant-related research, primarily in University-supported laboratories.

Quality in Organ Donation

NHSBT funds the Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) programme. The Principal Investigator is Professor Rutger Ploeg, from the Department of Surgery, University of Oxford. QUOD has developed a bioresource of well characterised material which will allow recipient outcomes to be traced and help researchers to improve the quality of donated organs it will also provide a focus for stimulating research further.