Liver 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.