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Organ transplantation is a complex procedure. But organ transportation isnt much more complicated than packing a sterile picnic. Doctors frantically flush a harvested organ with a preservation fluid, pack it in a cooler of ice, and rush it to a patient. A donated heart lasts about four to six hours not enough time to reach many patients and not enough time for doctors to determine if its an adequate match.
But a plastic container, an oxygen tank and some basic science may save thousands of lives. Leonid Bunegin, an associate professor in the department of anesthesiology, developed an organ preservation system capable of keeping the heart alive for approximately 24 hours.
The system uses a technology called fluidics to pump oxygenated preservation fluid through the heart much the way blood runs through the body.
"Fluidics harnesses energy from the expansion of oxygen. The device provides circulation to the organ and delivers oxygen and nutrients simultaneously. At the same time, it removes waste products (carbon dioxide). It is basically a heart-lung machine for the heart or other stored organ," Bunegin said.
While the old method of transporting organs slows organ death, the new method actually keeps organs alive by supporting their metabolic needs. Bunegin said the end result is a healthier organ for transplant.
"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 three patents issued on the technology. He hopes to secure a commercial developer and have the device on the market within the next five to ten years.