On 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!
Researchers can learn a lot through carefully planned, well-designed research studies. But sometimes, they can learn just as much from completely unexpected outcomes.
Take Viagra, for example. (Or if you’re a woman… don’t.) It was originally intended as a treatment for high blood pressure and heart disease, but an unexpected side effect made for quite a few happy men (and women)!
In the latest unexpected outcome, researchers were using charged microparticles to study West Nile virus, but a batch of microparticles were accidentally given a negative charge. When this happened, the microparticles bound to certain proteins on monocytes and sent those monocytes to the spleen for destruction. This is important because monocytes are responsible for a lot of the damage done to the heart muscle in the days following a heart attack. 12 hours after a heart attack, treated mice had lesions half the size of control mice, and their hearts pumped more efficiently! They also found an improvement in mouse models of multiple sclerosis, IBS, and kidney injuries with this treatment! Next step: human clinical trials in an attempt to limit tissue damage after heart attacks. This was a pretty good mistake!