How AI is transforming organ donation: 7 things to know

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Artificial intelligence algorithms are saving lives by changing the way patients are matched with kidney donors, Quartz reports.

Here are seven things to know:

1. While patients in need of a transplant can accept an organ donation from a willing family member or friend, they aren't always a perfect match. In this case, patients are often forced to wait on a transplant waiting list until a person registered as an organ donor — and whose blood type and tissue variation matches theirs — dies.

2. The paired kidney exchange, which aims to improve the organ transplant process with AI and living donors, is changing this process.

3. Using AI algorithms, the system helps match patients in need of a kidney to those willing to donate one. The one requirement: Patients interested in participating in a paired kidney exchange must procure a donor, even one that isn't a match with themselves, who volunteers to donate a kidney to another patient to maintain a large enough donation pool.

4. Since the first paired kidney exchange surgery in 2000, nearly 6,000 people have received life-saving kidney transplants with the algorithms' assistance. Now, about one in eight transplant patients are matched through the paired kidney exchange.

5. The idea behind using the algorithms for kidney matching is to reduce potential bias. However, algorithms only perform as well as the data they are trained on and processes set by their developers.

6. Researchers also hope that these algorithms could help facilitate more kidney transplants through "chains," or the process of when a person chooses to altruistically donate a kidney to anyone who needs one, setting off a sequence of donations among a pool of potential donors and recipients registered with a hospital or kidney exchange.

7. Several hospitals in the U.S. operate their own paired kidney donation programs, and there are three larger U.S. exchanges that organize kidney chains across hospitals: the United Network for Organ Sharing, the National Kidney Registry and the Alliance for Paired Kidney Donation.

To read the complete Quartz article, click here.

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