Donors: Frequently Asked Questions


How are donations for research different than for transplants?
Requirements for research are different than requirements for organ transplants, which require healthy donors in certain age groups. It is important to understand that:

  • Anyone at any age may be a research donor candidate.
  • A history of disease does not rule out donation for medical research. Scientists frequently need diseased tissue in order to study treatments. In fact, NDRI participates in several disease-specific research programs. And patients may choose to donate diseased organs removed during transplant.


Why are organs and tissues important for medical research?
You, or someone close to you, may have a debilitating or even life-limiting disease for which there is currently no cure. Medical researchers have made great strides using both normal and diseased human tissue to advance diagnoses, therapies and cures. Not surprisingly, human tissue gives researchers better information than animal tissues in studies of human disease. As scientists get closer to finding cures for many human diseases, donation to benefit research is critical. When you donate tissue or organs upon death or during surgery or transplant, you can help save lives by providing the materials that researchers need to find better treatments for and, ultimately, cure diseases.


Who is NDRI?
The National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded organization that provides project-driven human biospecimen service to academic and corporate scientists. NDRI was founded in 1980 by Lee Ducat, the mother of a diabetic child and a founder of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), who was frustrated by the lack of information about her son’s condition and hoped for a cure. Today, with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we provide all types of normal and diseased tissues to researchers studying a wide range of common and rare diseases and disorders.


What happens to the tissues I donate?
NDRI receives thousands of requests for all types of tissue. We process donated tissues and send them to approved researchers in the NDRI network. Your gift may benefit dozens of different research studies. If you prefer, you may specify what type of research you would like your donation to aid (e.g., diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), HIV/AIDS, etc.), and we will give these studies priority. Your family may request information on the types of studies benefiting from your gift but will not be able to obtain diagnostic information. Our program is confidential, and your information remains anonymous.


How do I donate tissues for research?
If you would like to donate towards research, you have several options. Our recovery partners can collect biomaterials through:

  • Autopsy
  • Blood donations
  • Surgery
  • Transplant

To indicate your desire to donate for research, you or your next-of-kin should complete and submit our Donation Form.

After we receive your donation form, we will contact you to discuss the donation process in detail. We will mail you two copies of the consent form and, in some cases, a medical questionnaire. You or your next-of-kin, along with a witness, should complete and sign both copies of the consent form, and then retain one copy and mail the other to NDRI.

So that we can maintain up-to-date records, we ask that you notify us of any changes to your original information by contacting our Private Donor Department at (800) 222-NDRI (6374), Option 5. This would include significant information such as chemotherapy/radiation treatments, eye diseases, surgeries, medications or change in medical status (e.g., insulin requirement for diabetes).

NDRI conforms to all applicable local laws.


If I donate tissues for research, can I still be a transplant donor?
Yes. The gift of life through organ and tissue transplant donation is one of the most precious gifts anyone can give. NDRI works closely with eye, organ and tissue procurement organizations to ensure that all organs for transplantation are retrieved first, followed by non-transplanted donated tissues, which are used for research.

In cases when tissues and organs cannot be used for transplantation, your donation can give hope and promise to medical research.

Contact your local transplant program to learn how you can become an organ or tissue transplant donor.

NDRI is a Not-For-Profit (501c3) Corporation.