Heart failure may decrease due to new “heart-in-a-box” machine

New Tool Keeps Organs Alive for Transplant

new science research facility

We’ve all seen it in the movies, and maybe even in real life.  A courier is rushing an organ taken from a dying person to a transplant recipient.  He or she is carrying it in a “cooler” packed with ice.  The deadline is 8 hours.

“Beyond that time, there is significant injury to the (organ), which makes it unusable,” said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, director of UCLA’s heart and lung transplant program

In 2006, surgeons in Europe transplanted the first heart using the TransMedics Organ Care System, a portable device that kept the heart “alive”,  beating, with blood and oxygen flowing through it during transport. In 2011, doctors began successfully transplanting lungs using a similar device.

This “heart-in-a-box” machine keeps organs alive and working, resulting in less chance of rejection.  Most lung transplant recipients die within five years of the surgery, and doctors are hoping this new equipment will increase the longevity of patients.

Although over 200 transplants have been done in Europe, testing and evaluations are ongoing in the United States.  All current results will be presented at the annual International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation meeting in Montreal this week.

Hospitals pay approximately 45,000 euros, or $58,000,  for each TransMedic Organ Care System. While the hardware can be reused, the organ chamber must be disposed of after each transplant, Beswick said. “It’s a relatively high cost per patient.”

Although it sounds like ‘science fiction’, this heart-in-a-box could maintain the quality of the organs for longer periods of time, and result in recipients living longer after the transplant has occurred.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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