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Winter 2007

Donor Hearts For Transplant Kept Beating Longer

“Heart in a box” also holds promise for transporting kidneys and livers for transplant

A new mode of delivering donor hearts for transplant may put traditional methods on ice. The “heart in a box” machine simulates conditions of the human body to allow physicians to transfer warm, beating donor hearts for transplant across long distances. The system also holds promise for transporting kidneys and livers for transplant.

Heart transplant doctors are hopeful the system will increase the amount of time an organ can remain outside the body, better maintain organ health, provide surgeons with an opportunity to assess organ function and increase the availability of viable transplant organs. UCLA is one of five medical centers nationwide, and the only one in the western United States, involved in the Phase I clinical trial.

“We believe this technology holds promise to enhance heart transplant, and possibly other solid organ transplant programs here and around the world,” says Abbas Ardehali, M.D., director of UCLA’s Heart, Lung and Heart/Lung Transplant Program.

Donor organs traditionally are iced in coolers for transfer to recipients and maintain viability for about eight hours outside the body. In the clinical trial, the organ is connected to a pulsating pump that oxygenates donor blood from an internal gas supply and circulates the blood through the warm, still-beating heart. Early tests show the system will maintain organ viability for at least 24 hours.

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