Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety
Blood, tissues and organs
There are many types of tissues and cells that are currently being used to cure multiple diseases, for example:
Bone is the most transplanted tissue. Although they can be procured from living patients e.g. from hip replacement surgery, the wide range of bones procured are from deceased donors. As bone tissue has the ability to completely regenerate bone grafts, it is used to repair bone fractures for massive allografts - entire bones or large sections - and for structural grafts e.g. cortical rings for spinal fusion surgery.
Tendons are procured from deceased donors and used for tendon grafts mostly for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction in the knee.
Cartilages are procured from deceased donors. They are used to repair defects of cartilage.
Haematopoietic stem cells (HSC)
HSC are procured from living donors (bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cells and cord blood donation) and mainly used in haematology and oncology to treat diseases of the blood, bone marrow, or certain types of cancer.
Pancreatic islets are isolated from the pancreas of a deceased organ donor and can be used to treat type 1 diabetes.
Hepatocytes are cells that can be used for treatment of liver disease.
Skin can be either procured from deceased or from living donors. Skin grafts are mainly used for the treatment of burns.
Cardiovascular tissues are procured from deceased donors, they are mainly used to replace blood vessels or aortic and pulmonary valves for patients with congenital heart defects.
Corneas procured from deceased donors are used in ocular surgery. The transplantation of cornea is one of the most performed transplantations of human tissue.
The amnion is the inner membrane that surrounds and protects the fetus. The amnion can be extracted during caesarean section or normal delivery. It can be used in ocular surgery to correct corneal defects, and also for the purpose of temporary skin replacement in burn treatment.
Reproductive tissues and cells
Reproductive tissues and cells, such as oocytes and sperm, are used in the field of medically assisted reproductive technology. They can also be used for the manufacturing of medicinal products e.g. cultured amniotic membrane.
The availability of human tissues and cells used for therapeutic purposes is dependent on Community citizens who are prepared to donate. Donation of tissues and cells can be done after death, but can also be done by living donors (bone marrow, cord blood, haematopoietic stem cells). We are all potential donors able to help patients in need, and sometimes donors are even able to save other people's lives.