Supercooling makes livers for transplants last longer

Chilling to subzero temperatures greatly increased survival time of rats’ organs outside the body

8:51am, July 3, 2014

CHILLED A rat liver, removed for transplantation, is supercooled in the lab. 

“Supercold but unfrozen” is the idea behind a new procedure that tripled the time a rat liver can survive outside the body. If the procedure works similarly well for humans, the method may grant life-saving transplants a passport for traveling across the world, scientist report June 29 in Nature Medicine.

Organs quickly stop working once removed from the body. To stay viable, donated organs are stored inside plastic bags filled with a liquid preservative and kept on ice. But even with this procedure, a human liver lasts only 12 hours, a time frame that instills geographical limits between organ donors and recipients. Patients waiting for a liver in New York are 20 times as likely to receive one as those in Washington state or Kentucky. If the technique works for humans, it could introduce parity, meaning an organ donated in Houston could help a patient in Honolulu or even Hong Kong.

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