Machine restores cell function in pig 1 hour after death

Published: Thursday, August 4, 2022 - 3:49pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.26 MB)

Soon after the heart stops beating, cells die and organs fail due to a lack of blood flow, oxygen and nutrients.

But research published in the journal Nature shows a novel machine can preserve cells and tissues in pigs up to an hour after death — a potential boon for the 2,100 Arizonans awaiting transplants.

"You could take the organ from a deceased donor, and hook it up to the perfusion technology, and perhaps then be able to transport it long distance over a long period of time to get it to a recipient who needs it," said co-author Stephen Latham, who leads Yale's Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

The OrganEx machine bypasses blockages caused by swelling organs and collapsed blood vessels and uses a synthetic mixture combined with whole blood to deliver 13 cell-preserving drugs throughout the pig's body.

Compared to the industry-standard heart-lung bypass machine, ECMO, OrganEx treatments produced fewer signs of hemorrhage or swelling. The cells also showed signs of repair processes underway.

"What this tells us is that the demise of cells can be halted and their functionality restored in multiple vital organs," said senior author Dr. Nenad Sestan of Yale University Medical School.

Sestan added that the results also suggest that the progression toward massive permanent cell failure does not happen so quickly that it cannot be averted or possibly corrected.

Further research is needed to determine if the organs are transplantable, and human tests remain a long way off.

"These cells are not dead — that's the key point. But we don't know whether these organs are transplantable. That statement would need an experimental verification," said Sestan.