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The ultimate precious cargo – Human organs

The transportation of human organs – especially a donor’s heart – is usually done by packing it in ice inside a cooler box and getting it to the hospital as quickly as possible. Transporters have to race against time. The heart is only viable and capable of being transplanted between 4 and 6 hours after death.

But a lot can go wrong during such journeys – traffic jams, bad weather or mechanical difficulties can cause delays. In addition, a heart can be damaged if it is warmed up at the end of surgery; meaning it cannot be “tested” until the transplant operation is complete.

The introduction of a new heart-preservation system is set to change all that. Manufactured by Transmedics Inc. in Massachusetts, it is specifically designed to pump oxygenated donor blood and keep the heart in “a warm, beating and functioning physiological state outside of the body”. Moreover, the heart can be monitored to keep beating for up to 12 hours.

Should trials of this new system be successful, it would mean that heart transplant patients would face much better odds of receiving a live-saving new heart. This system is currently in use in Europe. Will this technology become the new face of live organ transport?

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