Researchers at the University of Texas have designed a machine that can keep a heart out of the body alive for 24 hours. For the moment, a donated heart can hold out of the body for about four hours. With this new technology, which pumps liquid through their blood vessels and uses oxygen pulses that mimic the heartbeat, scientists have been able to keep pigs’ hearts for a whole day.
The device, which fits in a small suitcase, could reduce waiting lists for transplants.
Dr. Rafael Veraza, from the University of Texas Health in San Antonio, presented his findings on pig hearts, which remained oxygenated and viable cells after 24 hours, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.
«The first heart was transported more than 50 years ago on ice, and decades later it is done in the same way. Being able to maintain a viable heart for 24 hours means that I could transport it to almost any part of the world, and this could save many lives, ”explains the researcher.
The key to preserving hearts for a full day is to mimic the conditions of the human body as much as possible. That means introducing a preservation solution through the arteries, administering 60 pulses of oxygen per minute as a heartbeat and suspending the heart in a solution, similar to how it is maintained in the body, to prevent it from collapsing under its own pressure
The American researchers tested their system, called ULiSSES, in five pig hearts, and found that they seemed viable after 24 hours, with little inflammation, which is what indicates cell death.
The next step in this investigation will be to transplant the hearts back to the pigs, to make sure they work properly.
If the necessary official approvals are granted, scientists believe that hearts preserved outside the body for 24 hours could be donated to people within a year.
They also hope to use this technology to preserve and transport limbs lost in war, traffic accidents or industrial accidents, so they could come back together, although so far it has only been done with pig limbs. .