The conventional methods of a heart transplant needs four hours from the removal of the heart to reach the recipient. Now, thanks to scientists at Sweden’s Lund University, there is a great breakthrough that extends the time frame for organ donation. This extension of time goes from 4 hours to at least 12 hours, and up to a several days.
The method involves a mini-heart lung machine that gives the donated heart an oxygenated solution that contains vital substances. Testing was done initially on animal hearts, showing that the device was able to preserve the heart for one day. The researchers then applied it to a human heart and was able to restore the heart for three hours before transplanting it into a patient at Skane University Hospital.
Johan Nilsson, senior consultant cardiotoracic surgeon, reported in a Lund University press release, “The heart started at once with a good mobility in the whole heart, including the septum between the ventricles, which we normally do not see.” The researchers plan to heighten the period gradually to 24 hours if five more tests of three hours are successful.
Nilsson has high hope to the new possibilities of longer transport time for organ donation. “This new method gives increased opportunities for exchanges with countries far away, such as between Europe and eastern United States, and it also makes it possible to use older donors,” he explained.
This has been such a great breakthrough as this system has the potential to save thousands of lives by simply extending the window of opportunity. Hopefully in the future we will see the development of related devices for other organs.