Scientists may have discovered a new breakthrough method of keeping organs alive for organ transplants. A recently published study details how researchers were able to “supercool” a rat liver, allowing it to be preserved for a total of four days.
If this technology can be applied to human organs, it could potentially save thousands of lives by allowing doctors to send organs to surgeons further away. It could allow for interstate or even international organ donation by giving the organs more time before they become unusable.
The rats used in the study received liver transplants with organs that were stored for three full days, and the survival rate was 100 percent after three months. The rats also got transplants with organs that were stored for four days, but the survival rate was lowered to 58 percent.
“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.
Currently, human livers only last for 12 to 15 hours before they become unusable for transplants. If scientists were able to supercool a human liver like they did with rat livers, however, that time would increase exponentially.
“That could basically eliminate waiting for a organ, but that is hugely optimistic,” Dr. Uygun, one of the researchers, said.
It would allow more organs to be saved and used in transplants, which would hopefully lower the waiting period to get new organs. Currently, the wait time to receive a new liver is whopping 361 days in the US. Lengthy wait times can prove to be fatal to patients, as sometimes organs give out far before they are close to getting replaced.
The research team is unsure if this process can successfully be used on human organs, but it will no doubt be tested in the near future.