Transplant shortage crisis

The shortage of transplantable organs and cells for patients with organ failure is acute — and worsening.

The supply simply cannot keep pace with the demand. While a remarkable 39,035 transplants were performed in 2020, more than 100,000 people remained on waiting lists as of October 2021.1,2

Organshortage Still
The number of patients with organ failure requiring a transplant has grown faster than the number of transplants available.1,2

That means about 20 people die each day awaiting an organ transplant.1,2 Without new options for patients with organ failure, transplant waiting lists will continue to grow. More patients will die while waiting, and more patients will suffer due to suboptimal therapeutic choices such as dialysis or insulin replacement therapy.

Several factors contribute to the increasing need for transplantable organs and cells3,4

EGenesis OrganShortagePage IncreasedEfficacy 20210402

Improvements in transplant outcomes

EGenesis OrganShortagePage IncreasedLongevity 20210402

The increasing longevity of the population

EGenesis OrganShortagePage Obesity 20210402

Rising rates of obesity, which increases the risk of organ failure

2 80 Percent Kidney Desktop
Most patients on the organ transplant waitlist are waiting for a kidney transplant.2

Kidney failure accounts for more than 80 percent of patients on the organ transplant waitlist.2

3 Kidney Transplantation@2x
Many patients with kidney failure are unable to receive a kidney transplant that would significantly improve their quality of life.1

Kidney Transplantation

Chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension as well as rare genetic conditions lead to kidney disease and kidney failure.5 In the United States alone, about 37 million adults suffer from chronic kidney disease, and 126,000 patients are newly diagnosed with end-stage renal disease each year.6,7 The diagnosis of end-stage renal disease is devastating for patients, their families, and their caregivers.

The most effective treatment for kidney failure is transplantation. Most patients who undergo a kidney transplant can resume normal activities such as work, travel, and time with family and friends. Unfortunately, this option is out of reach for most patients, given the shortage of available organs. Typical wait time for kidney transplant is three to five years.

5 Islet Transplant@2x
Dialysis, often the only option for patients waiting for a kidney transplant, typically has a worse prognosis than many types of cancer.9

Dialysis: Poor Treatment Outcomes and Quality of Life

Unless and until a kidney becomes available, dialysis is the only other option for patients.

But dialysis is life-altering: physically draining and often painful, emotionally taxing and disruptive. The treatment requires two to three sessions per week at three to six hours per session. These demands prevent many people from working or traveling or enjoying their usual activities.8 Dialysis also takes a terrible toll on a patient’s health — the prognosis for dialysis-treated patients is worse than for many types of cancer.8,9 Only half of patients who start dialysis can expect to live beyond five years.9

4 Dialysis@2x
For patients with Type 1 Diabetes that experience severe complications, islet cell transplantation may provide a less invasive and potentially safer treatment option than a whole-organ transplant.10,11

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks islet cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. In the United States, about 1.6 million people have type 1 diabetes.10,11 Type 1 diabetes requires careful monitoring of blood sugar levels and insulin therapy, which can require multiple daily injections.

While type 1 diabetes is usually managed with insulin therapy, about 25,000 patients experience complications per year, such as frequent and severe episodes of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.10,11 These complications can result in hospitalization, damage to other organs, or death. For those suffering such complications, islet cell transplantation can potentially restore the body’s production of insulin.12–14 Islet cell transplants are less invasive and offer a potentially safer treatment option with better outcomes than whole-pancreas transplants.

Transplant stories

Get to know patients, their families, and their friends. Learn how their lives have been shaped by transplantation — either as donors or recipients. Faced with incredible challenges, these courageous individuals are our inspiration. It is in their honor that we work toward meeting the urgent need for more transplantable organs and cells.

Edward Drake II



  1. Health Resources and Services Administration and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network National Data. Accessed October 6, 2021.
  2. Health Resources and Services Administration. Organ Donation Statistics. Updated October 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021.
  3. Abouna GM. Organ Shortage Crisis: Problems and Possible Solutions. Transplant Proc. 2008;40(1):34-38. doi:10.1016/j.transproceed.2007.11.067
  4. Caplan AL. Finding a solution to the organ shortage. Can Med Assoc J. 2016;188(16):1182-1183. doi:10.1503/cmaj.151260
  5. Thomas R, Kanso A, Sedor JR. Chronic Kidney Disease and Its Complications. Prim Care. 2008;35 (2):329-vii. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2008.01.008
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2019. Published March 13, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2021.
  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States. Accessed October 6, 2021.
  8. Nagasawa H, Sugita I, Tachi T, et al. The Relationship Between Dialysis Patients’ Quality of Life and Caregivers’ Quality of Life. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00770
  9. Naylor KL, Kim SJ, McArthur E, Garg AX, McCallum MK, Knoll GA. Mortality in Incident Maintenance Dialysis Patients Versus Incident Solid Organ Cancer Patients: A Population-Based Cohort. Am J Kidney Dis. 2019;73 (6):765-776. doi:10.1053/j.ajkd.2018.12.011
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. Estimates of diabetes and its burden in the United States. Updated August 2020. Accessed October 6, 2021.
  11. American Diabetes Association. Statistics About Diabetes. Accessed October 6, 2021.
  12. Gamble A, Pepper AR, Bruni A, Shapiro AMJ. The journey of islet cell transplantation and future development. Islets. 2018;10(2):80-94. doi:10.1080/19382014.2018.1428511
  13. Bruni A, Gala-Lopez B, Pepper AR, Abualhassan NS, Shapiro AJ. Islet cell transplantation for the treatment of type 1 diabetes: recent advances and future challenges. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes Targets Ther. 2014;7:211-223. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S50789
  14. Srinivasan P, Huang GC, Amiel SA, Heaton ND. Islet cell transplantation. Postgrad Med J. 2007;83(978):224-229. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2006.053447