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Scientists at Harvard Medical School found out a solution to overcome the problem of organ donation availability. They have discovered a new technique of ‘supercooling’ a rat liver, allowing it to be transplanted four days after being harvested from a donor in a breakthrough which could globalise transplantation.
All the rats who had ‘supercooled’ livers which has been stored for three days survived for at least three months.
The new technique would enable the world-wide allocation of hearts, livers, skin and kidneys from as far away as Australia and could save hundreds of lives each year. There are nearly 7,000 people in Britain currently waiting for transplants and only half of those are likely to receive a transplant this year.
At present technology allowed human livers to last for 12 to 15 hours only before they become unusable for transplants.
“We show here that 100 per cent survival is limited to 72 hours of storage, as the survival drops considerably, to 58 per cent, when the storage time is extended to 96 hours,” lead author Dr Korkut Uygun, from Harvard Medical School, wrote.
“That could basically eliminate waiting for a organ, but that is hugely optimistic,” Dr. Uygun said.
One of the researchers said,”supercooling would lead to better donor matching, which would reduce-long term organ rejection and complications, which is one of the major issues in organ transplant.”
Supercooling technique involves pumping anti-freeze and a glucose compound into livers, which enable them to be ‘super-cooled’ to 21F (-6C) and preserved without actually being frozen.
“The longer we are able to store donated organs, the better the chance the patient will find the best match possible, with both doctors and patients fully prepared for surgery,” said Dr Rosemarie Hunziker of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in the US.
“The next step will be to conduct similar studies in larger animals. It is exciting to see such an achievement in small animals.”
“Extending the time limit to even a day would dramatically increase the geographical range over which a liver transplant might be possible and allow time to properly prepare an organ for the recipient,” says Bote Bruinsma at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “That goal now looks like it should be possible.”
Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said: “This sounds like fabulous research.
“If it allows for a longer period from taking the organ to actually transplanting it that’s going to have great benefits, not only by opening up the global picture but making decisions about what the organ can be used for.”
The research was published in the journal Nature Medicine.