‘Supercooling’ may extend life of transplant organs

BBC News reports on a new method to keep donated organs fresher for longer: “supercooling”.

US researchers are developing a new technique for the longer term preservation of human organs before transplantation.

Current methods of organ preservation can keep an organ viable for transplant up to around 12 hours once it has been removed from the body. This new technique has potentially extended this time up to three days.

The researchers tested the technique using rat livers. They froze the livers to subzero temperatures of 0C to -6C, while at the same time, passing nutritional preserving fluids to help keep the organ viable.

When rats were transplanted with a liver that had been preserved in this way for 72 hours, they all survived to three months, showing no signs of liver failure.

The number of people needing organ transplant always outnumbers the number of suitable donors available. So a technique that could preserve organs for longer could potentially allow them to be transported across greater distances to suitable recipients.

Hopefully this technique could work in humans, though due to the size and complexity of human organs, this may turn out not to be the case.

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