Organ donation is undoubtedly one of the most impressive things you can do as a person. Whilst many of our organs can be donated after we die however, the heart is often much trickier, with donations only possible in physically living patients that are unfortunately brain dead.
A new innovation aims to change all of that however by ‘reanimating’ the heart of someone who has recently died, thus allowing the organ to be transplanted into a living person.
A heart in a box
The so called heart in a box is a portable cart that comes complete with its own oxygen supply, sterile chamber and tubing to ensure the donated heart is suitably fed with blood and other nutrients. The device is capable of both extending the amount of time a heart can survive outside of the body and therefore recover hearts from patients from whom it would have proven impossible previously.
The device has already been used in over a dozen cases in Australia and the UK, with successful outcomes reported in all cases thus far. It’s believed that it could expand the potential donor pool by as much as 30 percent, and the device is currently pending approval in the US.
The approach taken with the box sees the heart kept operational and therefore warm, which marks a shift away from the more traditional method of moving organs cold. Studies have suggested that this is a much more effective method.
Whilst the $250,000 device is quite probably too expensive to see mainstream use at this moment in time, it nevertheless marks a great development in the transplant process.
It’s a well needed development too, as the numbers of heart transplants conducted each year has remained largely static for the past 20 years or so, despite substantial increases in demand.
Researchers hope that the method will also apply to other organs, thus providing an even larger potential upside to the technology.