by David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Livers and other organs begin lacking oxygen the moment they are removed from the donor and may have damaged tissue by the time a transplant occurs.
For the past 40 years, donor organs have been kept in “cold static preservation” – at less-than-ideal temperatures and levels of oxygenation – while being transported and prepared for transplantation.
But now Paulo Fontes and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine have developed machine-perfusion technology that preserves donor livers by pumping them with a form of cold artificial blood known as a “cell-free oxygen-carrier solution.”
The process is designed to keep donor organs oxygenated throughout the entire organ-preservation process before transplantation. If successful in human clinical trials, the technology could preserve more donor livers, reduce mortality among those on the waiting list and provide them with better post-transplant outcomes.
Based on success with pigs, Dr. Fontes and team are submitting final documentation for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to conduct a human clinical trial, possibly in coming months, to compare the new vs. old methods of organ preservation.
And if successful there, the perfusion-machine technology and solution would hold grand potential.
Already, the research team is developing perfusion machines for all major donor organs, including kidneys, pancreases and composite tissues consisting of skin, bones, blood vessels, nerves and tendons, with a longer-term vision of creating “an organ ICU.” Using the preservation method throughout the process, donor organs would be transported to an intensive care unit to undergo full recovery of function, before being transplanted or even sent off to transplant centers nationwide.
“We are working with the group from the Netherlands on devices for each organ, based on the right physiology, pressure and blood vessels,” said Dr. Fontes, a UPMC transplant surgeon and deputy director of the McGowan Institute. “The concept is not only preservation but the promotion of resuscitation and reanimation to make organs that currently are being discarded as potentially usable for transplantation.”
Read more via New technology preserves organs during transplant process.