Transplant breakthrough: A system for keeping the organs alive in a pig that has died.

Science News is talking about a new “cellular life support” system that could change the way we do organ transplants by keeping organs alive in a body that has died:

In earlier work, scientists built a machine they named BrainEx, which kept aspects of cellular life chugging along in decapitated, oxygen-deprived pig brains…. The new system, called OrganEx, pushes the approach to organs beyond the brain.

OrganEx aims to do the job of hearts and lungs by pumping an artificial fluid throughout pig bodies. Mixed in a 1–1 ratio with the animals’ own blood, the lab-made fluid has ingredients that provide fresh oxygen and nutrients, prevent clots and protect against inflammation and cell death.

Anesthetized pigs were put into cardiac arrest and then left alone for an hour. Then some pigs were placed on an existing medical system, called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. This adds oxygen to the pigs’ own blood and pumps it into their body. Other pigs received the OrganEx treatment.

Compared with ECMO, OrganEx provided more fluid to tissues and organs, the researchers found. Fewer cells died, and some tissues, including kidneys, even showed cellular signs of repairing themselves from the damage done after the heart stopped.

You can read the Yale team’s research here, in Nature.