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“Supercooling” Technique Preserves Transplant Organs Longer

Update Date: Jun 30, 2014 11:50 AM EDT

Organ transplants can be complicated especially when the donor organ stays outside of the body for a prolonged period of time. In a new study, researchers set out to find ways of extending the "freshness" of these donor organs. The team reported that a "supercooling" technique in which the organ sits in extremely cold temperatures could help preserve the organ for a longer period of time.

In this study, the team tested the supercooling method on animal organs. The researchers conducted liver transplants on rats. The rats either received an organ that underwent supercooling or an organ that was kept in the traditional icebox. In the supercooling method, the researchers had removed a liver and immediately hooked it up to a machine that pumped nutrients and oxygen back into the organ. Once an organ leaves the body, its cells start to deteriorate. In order to slow down the cells' rate of death, the researchers placed it in an environment with temperatures below roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The researchers found that the supercooled organs could live for three days. The traditional method of preserving organs only keeps the organ alive for 24 hours. The team stated that if this new method worked in human organs, it could boost the transplant success rates.

"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," one of the researchers, Dr. Korkut Uygun, from the Harvard Medical School, said according to BBC News.

Dr. Rosemarie Hunziker, from the US National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, added, "It is exciting to see such an achievement in small animals by recombining and optimizing existing technology. 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. This is a critically important step in advancing the practice of organ storage for transplantation."

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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