First there was the "heart in a box," a revolutionary technology that allows donor hearts warm and beating, rather than chilled in an ice cooler, to be delivered to transplant. Now that same technology is being used to deliver "breathing lungs."
The lung-transplant team at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center successfully performed the nation's first "breathing-lung" transplant in November on a 57-year-old man who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis - a disease in which the lung's air sacs are replaced by scar tissue.
The transplant involved an experimental organpreservation device known as the Organ Care System (OCS), which keeps donor lungs functioning and "breathing" in a near-physiologic state outside the body during transport.
"Lungs are very sensitive and can easily be damaged during the donation process. The cold-storage method does not allow for reconditioning of the lungs before transplantation, but this promising 'breathinglung' technology enables us to potentially improve the function of the donor lungs before they are placed in the recipient."
UCLA is currently leading the U.S. arm of the international, multicenter phase-2 clinical INSPIRE study of the OCS, developed by medical-device company TransMedics. Dr. Ardehali is the principal investigator for UCLA. The purpose of the trial is to compare donor lungs transported using the OCS technology with the standard icebox method.
Dr. Ardehali says the technology could also help transplant teams better assess donor lungs, since the organs can be tested in the device, over a longer period of time. And it could help expand the donor pool by allowing donor lungs to be safely transported across longer distances.
To read more about the breathing-lung device and to view a video, go to: http://transplants.ucla.edu/breathinglung