Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HUGE Heart Transplant Technology Breakthrough

Thanks to a great, new breakthrough in heart transplant technology, Rob Evans' recent heart transplant was different from mine and thousands of others. When Rob's donor heart arrived at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, it was not chilled and in a cooler like most donated organs. It was warm and still beating with the donor's blood and oxygen still coursing through it (see video by clicking here).

Rob's transplant was part of an on-going medical trial of an organ-preservation system in which donor hearts are kept in a "delivery box" which very closely mimics their natural environment within the human body. The new technology, called the Organ Care System (OCS), has the potential to actually save lives by :
  • improving the functioning of donor hearts,
  • allowing transplant teams to better assess donor hearts,
  • allowing transplant teams to identify potential tissue-matching issues heading off future rejection, and
  • increasing the shelf-life of donor hearts.
The fact that this new technology could increase the shelf-life of donor hearts is the thing I'm particularly excited about. Currently, a donor heart has four hours from the time it is recovered from the donor until the time the transplant into the recipient must be completed and the heart restarted. Basically, this short window means that heart donors and recipients must be located fairly close to each other or the heart will lose it's viability for transplant. For instance, consider this - currently, if a donor heart becomes available in Tennessee, but there is no matching recipient close to the donor, such as in Tennessee or a surrounding state, there is the potential for a good, healthy heart not to be transplanted and basically wasted leading to an unnecessary death. However, if the clinical trial for this new technology is successful, it has the potential to change that by saving lives because the number of hearts available and viable for transplant would increase !! It would make it possible to safety preserve and transplant hearts that can't currently be kept viable long enough to save precious lives. For instance, with this new technology, and using the example above, if no match is found for the donor heart in Tennessee, or close by, the heart could be safely preserved and flown to a matching recipient in California !! Instead of the person in California losing their battle with heart disease, they win it instead !! Now, that's awesome.

The potential for the OCS is limitless. It could one day be expanded from donor hearts into other donated organs, too. The success of the trial could mean saving countless lives that otherwise would become another statistic. Personally, I'll be praying that the OCS trial is successful, and I hope you'll join me. It could mean the difference between life and death for many of our fellow Americans.

And yes, this news has me pumped !!

Source : article on titled Patient's Life Saving Donor Heart Arrives 'Warm and Beating' Inside Experimental Device
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