Donor Heart Beats Outside Body for 10 Hours…

A donor heart has beat outside the body for 10 hours thanks to a new invention.

Approximately 5,000 heart transplants are performed around the globe annually, and although this form of surgery has become more efficient and routine, delivering donor organs has always been a race against time.

Iranian Professor Abbas Ardehali, head of Heart and Lung Transplant Ward in UCLA Hospital in the US, has managed to invent a device to keep donated organs alive outside of the human body for a longer period.

The new device preserves hearts for up to 10 hours after people have died, and could therefore dramatically increase the number of organs that can be donated.

Ardehali said the donated heart can stay alive for a maximum six hours outside of the human body in ice, which makes the surgery more complicated when the donated organ is to be transferred from long distances.

“I invented a device which helps preserve the donated heart for longer hours, which is about nine hours and 56 minutes and may increase to even 24 hours,” he said.

He referred to the device as a revolution in the field of heart transplant surgery, saying that it increases the survival rate among those suffering from heart failure.

“The invention of the new device is done for the first time in the world and no such thing has already been registered in the history of medical sciences,” Ardehali said.

“My device pumps blood through human hearts, allowing them to stay warm and survive longer during transport. This can help a donated heart stay alive for 10 hours outside the human body.”

The device has been approved by FDA. Other nations will be able to use the technology in the near future.

Image credit: University of Liverpool, Faculty of Health & Life Science

First Organ Donation from UK Newborn

Organs from a recently-deceased baby have been successfully transplanted in to two patients.

In a procedure described as a milestone in neonatal care, a newborn baby girl’s kidneys and liver cells were given to two separate recipients after her heart stopped beating.

It is the first time in Britain that transplant surgeons have carried out such an operation involving a new-born child. Despite newborn organ donations being performed in the US, Germany and Australia, doctors say guidance about the diagnosis of newborn death in the UK may hamper life-saving operations.

Experts argue there is potential for more life-saving donations, but say current UK guidelines are prohibitive.

Prof James Neuberger of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We are pleased the first transplant of organs from a newborn in the UK was a success and we praise the brave decision of the family to donate their baby’s organs.

“The sad reality is for everybody to get the lifesaving transplant they are desperately in need of, more families who are facing the tragic loss of their young child will need to agree to donation.”

The parents of the deceased gave permission for the life-support to be switched off and for the baby girl’s organs to be used by the National Organ Retrieval Service after death had been confirmed.

In the last year, 4,655 organ transplants were carried out in Britain from donations made by 2,466 living and deceased organ donors. These included 206 heart transplants, 3,257 kidney transplants and 924 liver transplants.

At the present time, about 10,000 people in Britain are in need of an organ transplant and each year about 1,000 people die while waiting for a transplant.

Image credit: Christine Szeto

‘Supercooling’ – Keeping Organs Fresher, for Longer

A healthy organ suffers tissue death after removal from the body and can last around 12 hours prior to transplantation. It is using a new ‘supercooling’ technique, which US researchers claim they can preserve organs for DAYS after they are removed from the body.

Supercooling combines chilling the organ and pumping nutrients and oxygen through its blood vessels. This new technique could extend the amount of time to a couple of days by supercooling the organ without freezing it.

The researchers took rat livers and treated them with oxygen and cooled chemicals that act as an anti-freeze, and slowly brought the livers down to 4 °C (39 °F) without completely freezing them. They were then stored at -6 °C (21.2 °F) for three days. The livers were slowly rewarmed and transplanted into recipient rats. The rats that received livers that had been supercooled were all alive three months after the transplant. A control group of rats were given livers that had been stored for three days using conventional methods, though none of those animals lived for three months after the surgery.

Though the technique was done with livers, the researchers believe this could eventually be done using any transplant organ. If this technique eliminates the strict 12 hour available window, there could be up to 5,000 additional organs available for transplant every year.