Scientists have developed a new method to keep human hearts alive in a box outside the body for at least a day, an advance that may bring an end to people dying on the heart transplant waiting list.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden developed a new storage method in which a mini heart-lung machine supplies the donor heart with vital substances in an oxygenated solution during transportation.
The preservation time of the donated heart is then extended from today's approximately four hours to at least 12 hours, researchers said.
"This means, in principle, that we can perform transplants involving hearts from all over Europe," said Johan Nilsson from Lund University, who together with a team of three surgeons, performed the operation.
Stig Steen, senior professor at Lund University had previously shown that this method preserves hearts for up to 24 hours in animal transplants.
"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," said Nilsson.
Until now, hearts used in transplants have been stored in refrigerated boxes containing ice on the way from the donor to the receiving patient, researchers said.
With the old method, the heart needs to be transplanted within four hours to avoid serious complications, they said.
"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," Nilsson said.
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