An organ preservation device developed at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio potentially could save thousands of lives each year.
The system is designed to keep donated organs alive for 24 hours while they are transported. Currently, an organ can survive only for about six hours outside of the body.
"We lose thousands of harvested organs a year because of excessive transport times, or the patient dies while waiting for the organ to arrive," said Leonid Bunegin, associate professor in the department of anesthesiology and creator of the organ preservation device. "If we could utilize even a percentage of those organs, an estimated 2,300 additional patients would receive transplants each year."
Traditionally, doctors flush a harvested organ with a preservation solution and pack it in an ice-filled cooler. Bunegin's device uses a technology called "fluidics" to continuously pump nutrients and oxygen into the organ.
"Fluidics harnesses energy from the expansion of oxygen. The device provides circulation to the organ and delivers oxygen and nutrients. At the same time it removes carbon dioxide," Bunegin said. "While traditional transportation methods slow organ death, this profusion-type device actually keeps organs alive."
Not only does the device extend transport times, the organ is healthier when it reaches the patient. "With this profusion-type device, the donated heart has better than a 95 percent chance of resuming normal function immediately after transplantation," Bunegin said.
Bunegin has received three patents issued on the technology. He hopes to secure a commercial developer and have the device on the market within in the next five to ten years.