Research to bring donor hearts back to life

The research which brings together a team of researchers, surgeons, engineers and nurses from three of Australia’s major transplant centres including The Prince Charles Hospital, the Alfred Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital involves the trial of new technology that could potentially make more donor hearts available and also reboot hearts previously not considered viable for transplant.

Director of Critical Care Research Group (CCRG), Professor John Fraser says donor hearts are currently stored and transported on ice, but do not receive a constant oxygen supply.

“Donor hearts can survive for up to six hours, depending on the age and quality of the heart,” Professor Fraser says.

“The donor heart becomes increasingly more damaged the longer it goes without oxygen, as occurs during transport. As such, long travel distances are not ideal and can have damaging effects in the transplant recipient. But with our research, this is all about to change.”

The CCRG has been donated an experimental machine from Vivoline in Sweden that supplies the donor heart with oxygen during storage and transport, while keeping it cold and reducing the amount of work it needs to perform – all of which contributes to reducing donor heart injury.

“In a country as large as Australia, time is of the essence. Using these innovative techniques hearts can be retrieved from vast distances,” Professor Fraser says.
“This allows not only more patients to benefit from the generosity of donor’s families and receive transplants, but for those transplanted hearts to perform better allowing our patients to achieve better health outcomes.”

The team believe the technique has the potential to increase the number of donor hearts available in Australia for transplant by up to 40 per cent.

“This is significant and will hopefully lead to reduction in deaths in recipients waiting for heart transplants,” Professor Fraser says.

Teams from The Prince Charles Hospital will collaborate with the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney to undertake the research. The research is supported by The Common Good initiative through The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation.

2017-11-26T22:46:01+00:0026 November 2017|
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