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Reducing transplant cost through the CryoPrize

By Tom Watts, The Macomb Daily

Joseph Kowalsky is helping make organ transplants safer, less costly and more available through a Clinton Township-based project called the CryoPrize.

Kowalsky started the CryoPrize in connection with his work with the Immortalist Society, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to education and research relating to gerontology, health and life extension.

The Immortalist Society recently announced the Organ Cryopreservation Prize (the Cryoprize) will award a minimum of $50,000 to any individual or group of individuals able to place certain mammalian organs at cryogenic temperatures. They must be able to transplant those organs for a period of nine months and to show during that time period proper clinical function of them, Kowalsky explained.

“The organs in question are the heart, lung, kidney, liver and pancreas,” said Kowalsky, noting other organs may be the subject of research leading to the awarding of the prize.

Fundraising is underway, Kowalsky said, noting after raising $50,000, the funds will then be put into a savings or investment account at the general direction of the Immortalist Society Board of Directors

“I refer to CryoPrize loosely as the ‘sister-organization’ to the Cryonics Institute because it was founded by the same people 40 years ago,” Kowalsky said Monday. “In reality, it is a completely independent entity with a separate Board of Directors and a different mandate.”

Kowalsky said organs can live only briefly outside of the body.

“For example, a kidney must be transplanted within about 36 hours; a liver within 12-16 hours; lungs in under 8 hours; and a heart within 6 hours,” he said. “This is a very short window of time.”

When an organ becomes available a team of experts must be assembled very quickly, transportation costs can be extremely high, often requiring the use of a helicopter or airplane, and the patient must quickly be prepared for surgery, he said.

“This is difficult and expensive,” Kowalsky said. “If that window could be expanded, there would be more time to prepare the team and the patient; those who transport organs would have more time to do so rather than having to make a mad dash to ensure timely delivery; removal and implantation of the organ could be done at a more leisurely pace.

“These would all enhance safety,” he continued. “Transportation and other costs could be reduced dramatically, and more lives could be saved.”

Kowalsky said one way to expand the time window is to find a way to temporarily freeze an organ.

“As we now do with sperm, eggs and embryos,” he said. “Our goal is to encourage current and potential research in cryobiology specifically relating to organ transplantation”

Kowalsky said cost and time factors would be reduced.

“Among other things, doctors and staff could be assembled in a less hurried manner,” he said. “Private aircraft and other expensive methods of transportation could often be avoided.”

Kowalsky has the support of York Porter, President of the Immortalist Society, while also gaining support from contributors in the U.S., Germany and Australia.

More recently actor Leonard Nimoy, known as ‘Spock’ in the TV series Star Trek, contributed to the CryoPrize.

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