Hand in Hand: Medical Tissue Banks & Radiation Technology
The important roles of radiation sterilization and tissue banks are receiving more recognition among medical practitioners, and efforts now are intensifying to expand awareness of benefits and educational and training opportunities in the field.
Tissue banks that support medical care and treatment of seriously injured patients have opened or expanded in several countries over the past decade. The IAEA has been a catalyst in bringing about this important development, by advancing the technology of radiation sterilization of tissues and promoting standards to meet strict medical specifications. The lasting benefits lie in the many lives that have been saved or improved, including burn victims and patients requiring transplants and reconstructive surgery. They are among patients who have received millions of tissue grafts supplied since the IAEA programme in radiation and tissue banking began nearly 30 years ago.
Blank looks generally accompany the association of the IAEA and radiation technology with tissue banking. Yet through its life science and technical cooperation channels, the IAEA is contributing to advanced knowledge of the application of ionizing radiation to sterilize tissues, such as cartilege, tendons, corneas, heart valves, bone, and skin. The technology is well-grounded -- radiation has long been used for sterilizing medical supplies and products, becoming the method of choice in many countries for cost and quality reasons.
In August 2002, at the 3rd World Congress on Tissue Banking held in Boston, USA, the IAEA´s catalytic role in tissue banking - and particularly in establishing a Code of Practice for the Radiation Sterilization of Tissue Allografts - was singled out. The President of the Congress, Dr Samuel Doppelt, who heads the American Association of Tissue Banking, noted that the IAEA has a special position in developing and standardizing requirements to ensure and maintain tissue quality. In contrast to standardized health care products, biological tissue has far more variable quantities of possible contaminants. He emphasized that the entire sterilization procedure - which also includes the initial screening and monitoring of donor selection - is vitally important in preventing potentially fatal disease transmission.
International cooperation continues to expand with the IAEA´s support. Thirteen countries represented at the World Congress, for example, are members of the IAEA tissue banking programme: India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Slovakia, Poland, and Mexico. Additionally, highly specialized scientific companies are increasingly involved. In May 2002, for example, the IAEA joined forces with the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) in the USA, where more than 800,000 tissue grafts are used each year. MTF, the world´s largest tissue banking service organization, will provide expert services to selected tissue banks in developing countries working with the IAEA.
To guide its activities, the IAEA has formed an international Technical Advisory Committee. The members are the Presidents of the American, European, Latin America and the Asia- Pacific Tissue Bank Professional Associations, a representative of MTF, Directors of International and Regional Training Centers, and the IAEA. Also invited to participate is the World Health Organization.
More Educational Opportunities Opening
Over the past several years, countries have joined together with the IAEA to launch initiatives designed to keep practitioners informed of latest developments, and to train and educate students in tissue banking. The IAEA is supporting steps to open web pages on the Internet to support the exchange of information and promotion of good practices between tissue banks participating in the Agency´s programme.
On the training front, international and regional tissue banking courses have been developed and offered with IAEA support at universities in Singapore, Buenos Aires and most recently Seoul. Now being prepared is a complete on-line interactive training programme for tissue bankers, to be activated in 2003. It will present a full and comprehensive course of study - a "first" for the IAEA. This programme - to be offered on-line in English, Spanish and Korean - will make it possible for tissue bankers to complete studies set up in accordance with the IAEA Code of Practice. -- Sandra Salvini-Plawen, IAEA Division of Public Information.