U.S. researchers are claiming that a new preservation method for organs, called supercooling, will extend the viability period from the current sub-24-hours to up to three days.
Supercooling involves chilling the organ to minus 6 Celsius (21.2 Fahrenheit) and pumping nutrients and oxygen through its blood vessels, BBC News reports.
The method is currently being tested on rat livers. When an organ is removed from the body, individual cells immediately begin to die. Cooling an organ helps to slow this process, and providing oxygen and nutrients further sustains the organ. If the procedure works on human organs, organ donation may be revolutionized.
Organs are unable to be shared worldwide using conventional preservation methods. Dr. Korkut Uygun, a Harvard Medical School researcher, explained the myriad of benefits supercooling will have.
“That 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,” he said. “That could basically eliminate waiting for a organ, but that is hugely optimistic.”
Future experiments will evolve from testing 0.35oz rat livers to 3.3lb human livers.
“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,” Uygun added.
U.S. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering’s Dr. Rosemarie Hunziker shares Uygun’s optimism. “This is a critically important step in advancing the practice of organ storage for transplantation.”
“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,” Hunziker said.