Nav: Home

A 'super-cool' method for improving donated liver preservation

September 09, 2019

BOSTON - A new method for super-cooling human donor livers to subzero centigrade temperatures without freezing can triple the time that a donor organ stays safe and viable during transportation from the donor to the recipient. This development could greatly expand the availability of healthy livers for transplantation, improve organ utilization, and reduce some of the time pressure on procurement and transplantation teams.

This breakthrough addresses a dire need: because of the current donor organ shortage only about 36,500 of the 730,000 patients with fatal end-stage organ disease receive a life-saving organ transplant each year in the U.S.

The technique developed by Reiner J. de Vries, MD, Shannon N. Tessier, PhD, and Korkut Uygun, PhD from the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, and their colleagues is described in Nature Biotechnology.

Currently, a donor human liver is kept only about nine hours outside the body -- stored on ice in a preservative solution at temperatures ranging from four to eight degrees C (39.2 to 46.4 degrees F) -- before the tissues become irreparably damaged and the organ has to be discarded. At colder, subzero temperatures the organ would survive longer; however freezing causes serious damage. This is similar to the damage deep frostbite can cause to skin and extremities and would make the organ not transplantable.

But as the MGH investigators previously demonstrated with rat livers, it's possible to "supercool" them to -6 °C (21.2 °F) without causing injury to the tissues, extending their preservation time from a matter of hours to a matter of days. The technique was hailed as an "awesome technology" by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD in his "Director's Blog."

"With supercooling, as the volume increases it becomes exponentially more difficult to prevent ice formation at sub-zero temperatures," de Vries says. "So before, there were a lot of experts who said 'well this is amazing in small rats, but it will not work in human organs' and now we have successfully scaled it up 200 times from rat to human livers, using a combination of technologies."

Prior to supercooling, the livers are conditioned to protect them from the cold with a preservative "cocktail" that is delivered via machine perfusion, another technique already in use to improve organs for transplantation. The perfusion ensures that the preservative solution is evenly distributed throughout the organ.

The human livers can then be transported at -4 °C (24.8 °F), and at the transplantation site machine perfusion is again used to carefully warm the livers and bring them out of their state of suspended animation.

Using this technique, the investigators have been able to extend the out-of-body time for livers to 27 hours - long enough for a donated organ to be shipped virtually anywhere in the United States or beyond.

The extra time the technique can buy could make the difference between success and failure of a liver transplant, Tessier says.

"A lot of times when an organ becomes available, there may not be a good match nearby, so in terms of allocation, when you add that extra amount of time that means you can search a wider distance which means you have a better chance of not only finding a good match, but an excellent match," she says. "And that means that you have less organ discard, get more organs to recipients, and those organs are better matched to the recipients, meaning that organ can have a longer life within the recipient."
-end-
Additional co-authors of the Nature Biotechnology paper are Peony Banik BSc, Sonal Nagpal BSc, Stephanie Cronin, MSc, Sinan Ozer, BSc, Ehab O.A. Hafiz, MD, Martin L. Yarmush, MD, PhD, James F. Markmann, MD, PhD, Mehmet Toner, PhD, and Heidi Yeh, MD, from MGH and HMS, and Thomas M. van Gulik MD, PhD, from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The study was supported by the US National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense Health Program, New England Donor Services, the Shriners Hospitals for Children, as well as Sylvatica Biotech, Inc. Continuation of the studies is funded by the MGH ECOR program. Donor organs for this study were provided by New England Donor Services and LiveOnNY, and the authors express their gratitude to the donors and their relatives for enabling this research with their gifts.

About the Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $925 million and comprises more than 8,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2019 the MGH was once again named #2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in its list of "America's Best Hospitals." Contact: Noah Brown, nbrown9@partners.org, 617-643-3907

Massachusetts General Hospital

Related Science Articles:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
More Science News and Science Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Uncharted
There's so much we've yet to explore–from outer space to the deep ocean to our own brains. This hour, Manoush goes on a journey through those uncharted places, led by TED Science Curator David Biello.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 1: Numbers
In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide.  Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.