By Marc Beuttler
The difficulty with organ transplantation is that as soon as an organ is removed from the body, the individual cells that compose it begin to die. This limits how far organs can be transported and which organs can be transplanted, resulting in less overall organs available locally to help people in dire need. However, a new technique that has so far only been tried in rat livers shows promise for “supercooling” organs by pumping freezing saline, nutrients and fresh oxygen through its blood vessels. At minus 6 degrees Celsius, the organ is kept fresh and in much better condition for transplantation. Dr. Krokut Uygun, a researcher on the team at Harvard Medical School, envisions this process expanding access to organ donation by increasing the time an organ can be shipped. If the transportation range for matching organs is increased to include different countries and continents, this could help many people receive better matches for their organs. Finding a good match for a patient’s immune system is critical in organ donation, and with this step in advancing the practice of organ storage for transplantation, many more lives may be saved.
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