Category Archives: Organ Transplant

Liver transplant availability improved by rats

iStock_000015700850SmallLiver transplants may soon become available to many more patients, thanks to a slow-cooling method that  was developed in rats. This technique could make over 5,000 extra organs available to patients each year. Currently, a human liver only lasts for about 12 hours, so the pool of transplant recipients is very limited and depends on the patient’s proximity to the donor hospital.

Freezing organs can cause ice crystals, which can damage the cells. This slow-cooling method prevents the formation of ice crystals by introducing a chemical that protects the cells. The liver can then be stored at -6 degrees Celsius before it’s warmed back to body temperature and transplanted. Researchers also believe it’s possible to use this method on larger organs.

Pretty amazing- and this could mean the difference between life and death for thousands of patients! Between this cooling method and other advances aimed at organ preservation during transport, humans could likely begin to see the benefits of this research rather quickly. In this instance, the chemical components of this technique are already approved for use in humans, so after further research in larger animals, human trials won’t be far behind.

http://www.nature.com/news/supercooled-livers-last-for-days-1.15465

Don’t look now- but organ transplants are about to be REVOLUTIONIZED!

iStock_000021023060SmallOn average, a heart or a lung kept on ice will only last about 6 hours outside of the body. The organs suffer some damage during this time, so the chances of transplant success decrease as time passes. This severely limits the ability for a recipient to be able to receive donor organs- a team needs to be able to deliver the organ to the recipient’s location in a relatively short period of time, so it’s impossible for a patient in New York to receive a heart from a donor in Hawaii. And unfortunately, desperately needed donor organs are sometimes wasted because there are no potential recipients within range to accept them. 

But that may be about to change. Meet TransMedics’s Organ Care System. This amazing machine can pump oxygenated blood through hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys- AND monitor their performance! This could potentially increase the window of opportunity for recipients by keeping organs viable for longer periods of time, and improve patient outcomes by giving doctors a better idea of the chances of success for the transplanted organ!

Thanks to animal-based research that started over 100 years ago, the success of long-term tissue grafts and the ability to minimize organ rejection has saved many lives. The limitation was ice; and if study results are positive, the Organ Care System could revolutionize organ transplants!

Watch these videos of a lung and a heart in the machine- it’s amazing!

Are there animals in YOUR medicine cabinet?

Dog and pills.How have animals helped YOU today? If you’re not familiar with research, you might not have any idea. But did you know that most of our medical advances wouldn’t have been possible without animals? It’s amazing to learn about the ways they’ve helped us!

Antibiotic ointment, aspirin, cold medicines, penicillin, anti-depressants, blood pressure and cholesterol medications, insulin, anti-coagulants, anesthesia, HIV drugs, chemotherapy, dialysis, CT scans, MRIs, prosthetics, organ transplants, and thousands of other medications and procedures were developed and determined to be safe for your use, thanks to dedicated researchers and the animals they work with.

The list goes on. I will guarantee that every person reading this has benefited from at least some of these advances. What’s more, I’ll bet your pets have benefited as well! And that’s a wonderful thing! Think of the symptoms we can alleviate due to medications, the life-threatening emergencies that we can SURVIVE, and the illnesses that our children may never get, thanks to vaccines. Polio, measles, cervical cancer, rabies, chicken pox, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis B- and that’s just the beginning of the list!

EMBRACE it. Be thankful for it. The next time you reach into your medicine cabinet, take a minute to think about the scientific advances that led to the development of the medication that’s about to help you!

http://news.discovery.com/animals/animals-in-your-medicine-cabinet-photos-140204.htm

http://fbresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/AADflyer-hires.pdf

Bone marrow transplant outcomes improved by unlikely sources!

iStock_000008340944SmallHorses and rabbits can help improve outcomes for human patients receiving bone marrow transplants. Wait- horses and rabbits? Yes!

Bone marrow transplants involve harvesting stem cells from the bone marrow of a healthy person and transplanting them into a patient with certain cancers or blood disorders- leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease, to name a few. Harvesting stem cells from a relative usually has the best outcome, but that’s not always possible. A full sibling only has about a 25% chance of being a match, so most patients find an unrelated match through the bone marrow registry. (www.bethematch.org) Finding a way to improve the outcome for unrelated matches is always a goal in research- and this is where horses and rabbits come in!

Researchers inject human T-cells into a rabbit or a horse. Then, the animal’s immune system kills the T-cells and their bodies create antibodies. These antibodies are then removed and given to human patients- and they then kill the patient’s T-cells, reducing the risk of rejection!

Horse or rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) has been used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients as well as in the treatment of aplastic anemia. Talk about animals helping people!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706234753.htm

Her Heart Will Go On

iStock_000022911974XSmallTragedy. Heartbreak. The death of a loved one is difficult to handle, and we never have all the answers we need. But thanks to biomedical research, organ donation can bring something good out of the tragedy of death. Heart transplants have been successful for over 40 years, with 60+ years of crucial animal studies leading up to the very first heart transplant in 1967. The video below, which was shown on Good Morning America a couple of years ago, has begun to circulate around the internet again- and after you watch the video, you’ll understand why. A mother, who lost her teenage daughter, gets to meet the woman whose life was saved and hear her daughter’s heart beat again. This story is sad, beautiful, and hopeful, and is a perfect example of the reason why people in the field of biomedical research are so passionate about what they do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN8EMXDwJ1A

 

 

For more information on animal contributions to transplant research:

http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/why/human-health/organ-transplants/