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Donation & Transplantation History

Organ donation and transplantation history continues to be made, from the more recent full-face transplant to tissue and eye transplants more than 100 years ago. The following timeline provides insight on significant milestones in organ donation and transplantation history.

  • 2020 – The first COVID-19 patient receives a double lung transplant.1

1COVID-19. Back to Life: COVID Lung Transplant Survivor Tells Her Story

  • 2019 – First organ transport and delivery by drone.2
  • 2018 – First live birth after uterus transplantation from a deceased donor occurred.3
  • 2016 – First HIV-Positive to HIV-Positive kidney transplant.4
  • 2014 — The first live birth after uterus transplantation from a living donor occurred.5
  • 2013 – The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE Act) is passed, which allowed researchers to study the transplantation of HIV positive organs into HIV positive individuals.6
  • 2010 — First successful full face transplant performed.7

"Successful Implementation of Unmanned Aircraft Use for Delivery of a Human Organ for Transplantation” Reported in Ann Surg (2021 Sept 1) 274(3):e282-288 

3  The First Baby Has Been Born After a Uterus Transplant From a Deceased Donor

Johns Hopkins performs first HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplants in U.S.

First live birth after uterus transplantation in the Middle East

The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act: Offering Hope to Individuals with End Stage Renal Disease and HIV

Full face transplant: the first case report

  • 2007 — Charlie W. Norwood Living Organ Donation Act (PL 110-144) provided the legal basis for kidney-paired donation exchanges.8
  • 2005 — First successful partial face transplant performed. 9
  • 2004 — Organ Donation and Recovery Improvement Act (PL 108-216) allowed the National Organ Transplant Act to reimburse travel and living expenses for living organ donors and provided for grants to states and public entities.10
  • 2000 — Children’s Health Act (PL 106-310)changed the National Organ Transplant Act to require the OPTN to adopt criteria and policies that address children’s unique needs.11

8 PUBLIC LAW 110–144—DEC. 21, 2007 (PDF - 120 KB) 

First-ever face transplant surgery is completed

10 PUBLIC LAW 108–216—APR. 5, 2004 (PDF)

11 PUBLIC LAW 106–310—OCT. 17, 2000 (PDF - 545 KB)

  • 1999 — Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the Organ Procurement and Transplantation report, recommending that OPTN should be more efficient in allocation livers to those with the most urgent medial needs.12
  • 1999 — First successful hand transplant performed.13
  • 1998 — The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued Hospital Conditions of Participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs. This requires hospitals to refer all deaths and approaching deaths to the local organ procurement organization.14
  • 1995 — First living donor kidney removed by laparoscopic surgery. This method uses a small incision, and donors have an easier recovery. 15
  • 1991 – The first kidney paired donation (KPD) exchange transplant performed.16
  • 1990 — First successful living donor lung transplant performed.17

12 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 1999. Organ Procurement and Transplantation: Assessing Current Policies and the Potential Impact of the DHHS Final Rule. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 

13 History and ethics of hand transplants

14 [Federal Register Volume 63, Number 119 (Monday, June 22, 1998)]

15 Comprehensive Transplant Center background

16 Kidney paired donation

17 Success & broadening the spectrum

  • 1989 — First successful living donor liver transplant performed.18
  • 1988 — FDA approves Belzer University of Wisconsin’s organ preservation solution, which more than doubled the amount of time abdominal organs can be kept in cold storage.19
  • 1988 – First successful split-liver transplant performed. This allows two people (often children) to each receive part of one donated liver.20
  • 1988 – First successful intestine transplant performed.21
  • 1986 – FDA approves new anti-rejection agent, anti T-cell monoclonal antibody.22
  • 1986 — Required Request law. This legislation required hospitals to give families of deceased patients the chance to donate their loved one’s organs.23
  • 1986 — The first OPTN contract is awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the United Network for Organ Sharing. The OPTN provides services for the allocation of organs.24
  • 1984 — The National Organ Transplant Act (PL 98-507) was established. This law made it illegal to sell human organs, established the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to make sure donated organs are allocated fairly, and established the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients to evaluate the scientific and clinical status of organ transplantation. It also provides for grants establish organ procurement organizations.25
  • 1983 — First successful single-lung transplant performed.26
  • 1983 — The Food and Drug Administration approved cyclosporine (discovered in 1976). This drug reduces the potential for organ rejection, thereby improving transplant outcomes.27
  • 1981 — First combined heart/bilateral lung transplant performed.28
  • 1981 — Uniform Determination of Death Act (a model for laws in all states) defines death as the irreversible loss of blood flow and breathing or irreversible loss of all brain activity and functions.29

18 Historical perspective of living donor liver transplantation

19 The use of UW solution in clinical transplantation. A 4-year experience.

20 Split liver transplantation: Current developments.

21 The history of intestinal transplantation.

22 Kidney Transplantation: Past, Present, and Future

23 The Required Request Law

24 UNOS fast facts

25 PUBLIC LAW 98-507—OCT. 19, 1984 (PDF - 1 MB) 

26 History of lung transplantation

27 Lessons to Learn From Low-Dose Cyclosporin-A: A New Approach for Unexpected Clinical Applications

28 5 Questions: Bruce Reitz recalls first successful heart-lung transplant

29 What is the Uniform Declaration of Death Act (UDDA)?

  • 1971 – First successful lung transplant performed.30
  • 1968 – Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) established the first Uniform Donor Card as a legal document of gift in all 50 states. The UAGA also identified who could donate a deceased person's organs, and allowed people over 18 to donate their organs upon death.31
  • 1968 – The first organ procurement organization (OPO), New England Organ Bank, was established. It was the first entity dedicated solely to identifying deceased donors in the local area.32
  • 1968 – First definition of “brain death” based on clinical neurological criteria became the basis for “brain death” laws in all 50 states.33
  • 1967 – The first successful heart transplant from a donor after cardiac death (DCD) was performed.34
  • 1967 – First successful liver transplant performed.35
  • 1967 – Paul Terasaki reported on the crossmatch test for kidney transplants between donors and recipients; started first organ sharing organization in Los Angeles.36
  • 1966 – Antilymphocyte serum introduced to extend organ survival in kidney (1966) and liver (1967) transplants. This drug helped prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.37
  • 1966 — First successful pancreas transplant performed (along with a kidney transplant).38
  • 1964 – Tissue antigen (HLA type) matching between donors and recipients reported as the standard to achieve the best deceased donor kidney transplant outcomes.39
  • 1963 – Successful long-term immunosuppression achieved with steroid and azathioprine combination.40
  • 1963 — First organ recovered from a brain-dead donor.41
  • 1962 – First successful kidney transplant from a deceased organ donor.42
  • 1961 – Azathioprine, the first immunosuppression drug, is used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.43

29 Historical perspectives of lung transplantation: connecting the dots

30 Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (1968)

31 New England Organ Bank

32 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 1999. Organ Procurement and Transplantation: Assessing Current Policies and the Potential Impact of the DHHS Final Rule. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

33 The first human heart transplant and further advances in cardiac transplantation at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town

34 Historical Overview of Transplantation

35 Historical Overview of Transplantation

36 History of Clinical Transplantation

37 Pancreas transplantation: 50 years of experience

38 The Evolution of HLA-Matching in Kidney Transplantation

39 Historical Overview of Transplantation

40 The first organ transplant from a brain-dead donor

41 The history of organ transplantation

42 Azathioprine

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