|Frequently Asked Questions|
How Are Donor Organs Currently Preserved?
Since the advent of transplantation, the cornerstone of organ preservation has been cold ischemic storage. This has remained virtually unchanged for more than 25 years. Ischemia refers to an organ with no blood circulation. Organs without blood circulation are not able to function during storage. At normal temperatures, rapid cell death would occur in a donor organ in an ischemic state. Preserving the organ at sub-normal temperatures reduces metabolic demands and slows the rate of organ cell death. The organ is usually immersed in solutions in an effort to further reduce damage to cells. The cooled organ is transported in an ordinary beverage cooler from the donor site to the facility where the transplantation will be taking place.
What Are The Limitations Of This Preservation Method?
The three most critical limitations associated with cold ischemic storage include:
What Can Be Done To Improve Organ Status During Preservation?
Many approaches to improving outcomes with cold ischemic storage have been explored, including different types of preservative solutions and mechanical perfusion; but none have demonstrated consistent clinical benefits over traditional cold storage. The fact remains, during the period of ischemia during preservation, the organ is at risk of being damaged.
The ability to maintain donor organs in a warm, "living" state outside the body could resolve many of limitations associated with cold ischemic storage. By pumping warm, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood through the organ from the time of removal until it is implanted, the organ could potentially withstand longer periods of time outside of the body and be less vulnerable to damage during transportation to the recipient. More extensive testing for function and tissue matching might also be possible with a functioning organ.