A machine invented in Oxford that breathes life into organs outside the body could transform the way transplant operations are carried out, The Oxford Times reported.
The device, which has already been used to help transplant a liver but could be adapted for organs such as kidneys and lungs, effectively pumps the liver with blood and bile while supplying it with the right balance of oxygen and other nutrients.
Constantin Coussios, a professor of biomedical engineering at Oxford University, is one of the inventors of the machine and is also technical director of the university’s spin-out company OrganOx.
The 35-year-old, who lives in Headington, has dedicated the past 15 years of his life to the creation of the machine.
He said: “It is a very humbling moment when what has been 15 years of my life experimenting transforms into something which will save someone’s life.
“The technology has been developed for the liver but it is applicable to other organs except the heart. We have essentially mimicked what happens within the human body. People have been trying to achieve this for 200 years.”
He said the biomedical engineering building at the Churchill Hospital helped in developing the technology.
Each year, 650 liver transplants are carried out across the UK but demand exceeds supply and an estimated 8,000 patients are waiting for organs of different types.
The machine could widen the number of organs that could be transplanted. The conventional method of cooling the organ to 4 degrees Centigrade, which keeps an organ “alive” for 20 hours at the most, tends to damage it even further but this new method has, in pre-clinical trials, kept an organ alive for three days.
Prof Coussios envisages that this device could lead to an organ transplant no longer being an emergency procedure. One of the people to have benefited from an organ transplant in the past is Steve Whelan, who lives in Horspath, and had his liver replaced in 2000.
He said: “Anything that can be done to improve transplant success rates for the future needs to be welcomed.”
Surgeons hope to perform 20 liver transplants during the pilot trial, expected to last until the end of the year, and a further 35 patients have given their consent to take part.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2013.
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