HEARTS wasted because they are deemed unsuitable for a transplant could get a second chance to save a life, thanks to pioneering Wearside researchers.
New research from Sunderland University is proving that hearts previously not considered for transplantation, could still be used – helping reduce NHS organ waiting lists.
The tests address one of the most pressing concerns in today’s health service, with hundreds of people across the country dying every year while waiting for a transplant.
From potential donors, some hearts are not retrieved due to their unsuitability for transplant.
But research at the university to restart hearts and develop tests to prove they are still viable, could see more declined donations used.
As a result of successful pre-clinical tests in the lab to get dead pigs’ hearts beating once again, clinical trials are to begin on human ones that would not otherwise have been used, after ethical approval was granted by National Research Ethics service in Newcastle.
Dr Noel Carter, senior lecturer in molecular biology at the Sunderland’s Faculty of Applied Sciences, saidd: “We have demonstrated enough evidence in our results from restarting pigs’ hearts after several hours of being clinically dead to be able to begin clinical testing on human hearts that are considered too marginal to be used for transplant or as a source of heart valves.
“Heart surgeons have to be 100 per cent positive that this vital organ is going to work before transplantation, which is why a number of them end up not being used.
“Our research wants to take those rejected hearts, get them restarted, carry out echocardiograms and tests in a sterile environment to check activity and show them to be in perfect working order. We believe then a proportion could be reconsidered for transplantation.”
The research team has developed a novel circulatory equipment and defibrillators to pump warm, oxygenated blood through the hearts, and used dialysis to filter out unwanted products from the circuit, thereby restoring the organ’s metabolic activity.
Also collaborating on the research is Professor David Talbot, Dr Guy MacGowan, Stephen Clarke and Professor John Dark, who all work at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. The work is the research project of Sunderland University student Omar Mownah, a clinical fellow and trainee surgeon, and Susan Stamp, research technician from Newcastle University.
NHS Blood and Transplant, which is the body responsible for organ donation services within the UK, is aware and supportive of this research that is entering clinical testing, which has been announced during this week’s National Transplant Week.
Professor James Neuberger, associate medical director, said: “We welcome this study and any development that not only increases the quality of organs available for transplant, but also allows those organs currently deemed unsuitable to become of sufficient quality to be transplanted.”