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Drone carries kidney to transplant patient in world first

A donor kidney has been delivered to a waiting patient at a US hospital by drone for the first time ever.

The unmanned machine is able to maintain and monitor the condition of the organ – and even has a parachute recovery system in case the aircraft fails.

It is hoped the pioneering work will pave the way for longer flights and address safety issues with current transport methods.

The organ was given to a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore who had waited more than eight years for the transplant.

She said: "This whole thing is amazing. Years ago, this was not something that you would think about."

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The journey may have only been three miles – but a vast array of technology was needed to ensure the organ was delivered safely.

The custom-made drone has on-board cameras and organ tracking, as well as safety systems for a flight over a densely-populated area.

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Matthew Scassero, part of the engineering team based at the University of Maryland, said: "There's a tremendous amount of pressure knowing there's a person waiting for that organ, but it's also a special privilege to be a part of this critical mission."

In 2018, more than 2,700 kidneys had to be thrown away because they had degraded before they could be transplanted.

"We're going to be able to save those organs, get them there quicker and get them into patients when they're still viable," Mr Scassero added.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, last year there were nearly 114,000 people on waiting lists, with 1.5% of organs not making it to the destination and nearly 4% being delayed by more than two hours.

Joseph Scalea, assistant professor of surgery at University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant, said: "This is a major step toward reinventing the way that the current system of organs are moved.

"I think we helped a lot of people this way. It might take a long time, but it's a first step."

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