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Tissue Bank

What is Tissue Donation?

Human tissue donation refers to the process by which a brain-dead or deceased person donates parts of their body for use in transplant procedures for another person’s recovery of biological functions without any financial gain or other considerations. Tissues can be donated when the person has expressed their willingness to be a donor before death, or the guardian consents after their death (for minors under the age of 16, when their families consent to donation), and the tissue should be harvested within 15 hours after the death. A living donor can donate their tissues removed during surgery.

To donate tissues, the donor should have a clear cause of death without the possibility of transmitting an infectious disease. Unlike solid organs such as hearts, livers, and kidneys, tissues have a relatively low incidence of immunological rejection, and tissues originated from one person can be transplanted to multiple recipients. 

As human tissue donation has become more common since 1973 when the allogeneic bone graft for bone tumor patients was introduced, the demand for tissues is increasing day by day in the medical field. However, more than 70 - 80% of human tissues transplanted are imported in Korea because the supply is too low due to the lack of awareness, the deep-rooted influence of Confucianism in Korean culture, and the lack of publicity and understanding. 

In the situation, Safety, Management, etc. of Human Tissue Act was enacted and promulgated in January 2005, which allows human tissues to be safely processed and used, thereby laying the foundation for the safe use of human tissues in Korea.  As the law was completely amended on January 29, 2015, it has become possible to express the willingness to donate tissues in advance if the person dies or is declared brain-dead due to an unexpected accident. Previously, it was only possible to donate at the time of death or surgery before the amendment. With this, the number of tissue donations is expected to increase gradually as cases, where the time window for donation was missed or a person’s willingness to donate was unknown at the time of death or brain death, are now corrected. 

What is a tissue bank? 

This refers to an institution authorized by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for the collection, storage, processing, storage, and distribution of tissues donated from living, brain-dead, and deceased donors. The tissue bank at Seoul National University Hospital obtained permission for establishment in January 2005, and is currently in charge of tissue donations such as bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons, fascia, and heart valves and blood vessels.


1. Donor classification 

1) Living donor

2) Brain-dead patient 

3) Deceased donor

2. Reasons for donor unsuitabilitys (Safety, Management, etc. of Human Tissue Act No. 9 and Safety of Human Tissue Rule) 

1) Donors who are infected with or suspected of being infected with infectious diseases such as hepatitis B or C, syphilis, or AIDS

2) Donors with neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia

3) Donors whose cause of death are not clear 

4) Donors exposed to harmful substances

5) Donors with cancer, which may result in metastasis

6) Donors that are deemed unsuitable determined as such by Ordinance of the laws.


3. Tissue possible to be donated (Article 1, Chapter 3, Safety, Management, etc. of Human Tissue Act)  

1) Bones, cartilage, fasciae, skin, amnia, ligaments, and tendons

2) Heart valves and veins 

3) Body parts determined by Presidential Decree, which are recoverable and transplantable for a person’s health, physical recovery, and prevention of disability (nerve, pericardium)


Inquiries regarding tissue donation registration and donor registration 

- Korea Organ Donation Agency (1544-0606)

- Seoul National University Hospital Tissue Bank (02-2072-0663)

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