Surgeons have for the first time repaired an injured donor lung and transplanted it into a patient.
The lung did not meet strict quality standards and would normally have been discarded. But, using a new technique, doctors kept it ‘alive’ and repaired it with a combination of drugs and stem cells.
Lungs are usually removed from patients who die of brain injuries. But because the brain releases inflammatory enzymes when it shuts down, only about 15 per cent are viable for transplant.
X-Ray: Doctors have for the first time repaired an injured donor lung and transplanted it into a patient
These healthy organs are then cooled and are usable for about six to eight hours.
Under the new procedure, the lungs are transferred to a protective chamber and connected to ventilators and filters, which allow an oxygen-carrying solution to flow through them.
The lungs also partially use their own regenerative powers to heal in the same way they would inside the body.
The system was developed in Toronto, Canada. Lead researcher Shaf Keshavjee said: ‘This will be a significant improvement in the utilisation, and quality of organs.
'It has applications for all organs, and transplantation will become more like blood banks, with organs tested and then stored.’
The technique has been successfully used in four transplants.