U of M researchers work to preserve organs longer

Organ transplant breakthrough at the U of M

MINNEAPOLIS - Researchers at the University of Minnesota may be on their way to eliminating the need for an organ transplant list.

In a lab at the University of Minnesota’s Mechanical Engineering building, professor John Bischof and his team show us their newly discovered "preservation" technique on a piece of a pig's heart valve.

It's a discovery that Dr. Erik Finger, a Transplant Surgeon at the U, says could help transplant patients receive an organ quicker because it would keep organs fresh longer.

Right now, experts say more than 60% of the hearts and lungs donated every year have to be thrown out because they cannot be left on ice longer than four hours.

"The longer you keep the organ on ice, the worse things are generally. So if you could somehow preserve an organ and keep it on the shelf and use it when you wanted to you have a lot of potential benefits," said Finger.

Here's how the preservation technique works: Researchers put a mixture which includes "Iron Oxide Nanoparticles" into a vial with a tissue. Then, they put the vial in a machine for "Vitrification", a process that essentially cools the tissue. When it's time to "re-warm" it, researchers put the vial in an electromagnetic machine.

Bischof says it's the first time someone has figured out how to "preserve" and then "re-warm" large pieces of tissue without causing damage.

"So our innovation was to add the nanoparticles and scale it up -- now we have this hope to go to a larger system," said Bischof.

Researchers say they will test this on rodent organs before they use it on human organs. Dr. Finger is hopeful that this technique will save more lives in the future.

"Depending on the organ, they may die if they don't get a transplant in time. If we can improve the utilization and increase the number of transplants that are done, fewer people would die," said Finger.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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