April 12, 2024

Heart transplant research proves out 24-hour organ preservation method

Editor's Note

A new method of organ preservation could allow researchers a much longer window to keep transplanted organs alive. Medical Xpress reported on the findings April 5.  

Typically, hearts awaiting transplant are maintained in cold static storage – in which they are kept on ice until transplanted and last only 6 hours before the organ or blood vessels become damaged. The new method, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School, is called normothermic ex-vivo heart perfusion (NEHP), in which hearts are kept in a partly physiological state at room temperature, and pumped with oxygenated, nutrient-rich fluid  – as well as drugs and stem cells if needed – until transplantation. 

Using this method, the researchers kept the hearts of 30 immature and 10 juvenile pigs alive for 10-24 hours. The hearts that were viable longest were those with modifications to the NEHP, including intermittent left atrial perfusion or iLA, plasma exchange and hemofiltration. 

The researchers have already begun to extend their findings to human hearts. If it can be used on human organs it could increase the donor pool and provide a better assessment of the viability of donor hearts. 

Some 50,000 people are in need of a heart transplant at any given time, but just 5,000 hearts are transplanted each year in part due to difficulties with storing and transporting organs in time.

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