Donation Options for Research, Therapy and Non-Traditional Transplants

WRTC is proud to offer a variety of new and innovative ways in which donors and their families can save and enhance lives beyond traditional organ and tissue donation and transplantation.  Below is a list of programs and reseach partners we are currently involved with in which donors may donate precious organs, tissue systems and individual tissues for far-reaching medical research and therapy, as well as “VCA Transplants.”  All of the institutions we partner with are working to save lives through the development and implementation of innovative therapies for disease and trauma.


GTEx, also known as the Genotype-Expression Project, is a new WRTC research protocol involving select donor patients, with authorization from their familes.  Through this protocol, WRTC (in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and the National Disease Research Institutes) will recover tissues and cells from donors for use in a variety of scientific research.  Scientists will be focusing on these cells’ genes as part of this vast research project.

Genes (which are composed of DNA) are found in our body’s cells and hold all the information that we pass from parent to child, generation to generation.  This information determines characteristics such as eye colof, blood type, height, as well as susceptibility to certain diseases.  Genes are the instructions our cells use for building and repairing our bodies and for controlling our day to day vital functions.  Scientists know that certain changes to genes alter the normal instructions and can increase a person’s risk of getting familiar diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or cystic fibrosis.  Exactly how the changes in genes does this is still poorly understood.  Research in this area offers incredible potential for discovering how to treat and prevent many devastating diseases.  The project has three key components:

  • WRTC and its partners will obtain small samples from multiple tissues and organs from a donor’s body.  These tissues will be physically stored in a “biobank” which will preserve the samples of donated tissue from many people fur use in current and future research.  There will be no identifying information about the donor accompanying these samples.
  • Important medical and clinical information about the donor (such as disease history, medications, cause of death, etc.) will also be obtained.  This information will be made anonymous and will be linked with the preserved tissue only by a specific number code. 
  • Scientists will analyze the donated tissues to determine the unique genetic makeup of the donor and that information will be stored in a DNA database with the associated anonymous medical/clinical information about the donor.

Together, this will provide researchers and scientists with a rich database that will help them investigate the links between genetic information, medical history, and how this shows up in specific tissues.

This project makes every effort to ensure the confidentiality of the donor and his/her blood relatives.


In the late 1990s, the first hand transplant, formally called a vascularized composite allograft (VCA) was performed in France.  The same procudure was done one year later in the United States.  Since that time, many surgeons and researchers have been examining whole arm, hand and face transplants.  WRTC is proud to be partnering with Johns Hopkins University Hospital on this new and exciting endeavor.  We will begin offering this opportunity to select donor families in late 2013.  It is important to emphasize that residents of WRTC’s service area who have registered as organ, eye and tissue donors do not automatically authorize face, hand or arm donation as well.  The donor patient’s legal next-of-kin must give special permission for anything outside the commonly recognized transplantable organs or tissues.  Only families whose loved one meets the unique criteria required for hand, arm or facial transplants would be presented with the opportunity to donate such a gift. 



Cytonet’s mission is to take an active part in shaping the future of medicine: As a pioneer in the field of regenerative medicine, we are already going exciting new ways by exploring the therapeutic potential of human cells and then developing innovative forms of treatment. Because we want to be able to offer patients suffering from serious and life-threatening diseases the best possible treatment options. Cytonet is already a global leader among companies that develop, manufacture and market innovative, cell-based medical products.

Georgetown University Medical Center

georgetownGUMC is home to more than 400 scientists working on basic and clinical research projects and 300 active clinical trials. Last year GUMC research attracted $132 million in sponsored research, with the majority of those dollars coming from the federal government. Our researchers work in the lab, in the classroom, in the clinic, and in their communities to help answer medicine’s biggest questions, focusing specifically on cancer, neuroscience, child health and development, and global health.


iiam_logoSince 1986, the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM) has become one of the largest recovery and placement networks in the world for the acquisition of donated human tissue for medical research and education. IIAM provides a link between humanity and medical discovery:  IIAM honors the wishes of donors and their families wanting to contribute to medical research and education. Simultaneously, IIAM provides researchers with the human tissue needed to find cures for disease, improve treatments and techniques, and develop novel drugs and medical devices.   IIAM works with: Organ procurement organizations,tissue banks, hospitals, hospice programs, funeral directors, mMedical examiners and individual organ and tissue donors in the U.S. by offering donation for research & education.  


Organ and tissue transplantation has begun a medical revolution. Organs save lives and tissues improve the quality of life for millions of people. Organ transplants such as hearts, livers and kidneys usually attract media attention because of the drama associated with life-saving operations. However, tissue transplants make possible skin grafts for thousands of critically burned patients and others in need of soft tissue repair; donated corneas avert or correct blindness; donor heart valves help repair cardiac defects or damage; bone, cartilage and tendon grafts help restore function in people who would otherwise be incapacitated or disabled. All of these life saving and life enhancing procedures are possible because very generous people are willing to donate their organs and tissues in order to save and improve the lives of others. The following links are provided to help you learn more about how to save and improve lives through organ and tissue donation.

LifeNet Health

lifenetFounded in 1982 and headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA, LifeNet Health Inc., is a leading biomedical alloengineering organization and organ and tissue donation agency whose mission is saving lives and restoring health. LifeNet Health is a leader in the engineering and processing of dental, cardiovascular, spinal and orthopedic bio-implants and distributes more than 200,000 bio-implants every year to restore health to patients around the world.

National Development and Research Institutes

ndri_bannerFounded in 1967, NDRI is a non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse, treatment and recovery; HIV, AIDS and HCV; therapeutic communities; youth at risk; and related areas of public health, mental health, criminal justice, urban problems, prevention and epidemiology in order to contribute to the prevention and solution of these social problems. NDRI is organized into specialized Institutes, each under the direction of a senior scientist. Each Institute focuses on a particular issue and has its own staff of researchers. NDRI with its large number of grants and contracts, its collaboration with a wide array of hospitals, treatment and prevention programs, its publications in leading journals and scientific books, and its acceptance into communities with diverse ethnic populations, reflects its well established reputation as a unique, highly responsible and productive research organization.

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