Packing hearts on ice destined for transplantation may eventually become a thing of the past. The Organ Care System from TransMedics, which delivers a still-beating heart to a transplant patient, continues to show promise in clinical trials. UCLA recently reported that Rob Evans, a 61-year-old patient suffering from cardiomyopathy, is the most recent recipient of a heart delivered by the device.
We’ve actually covered the Organ Care System (OCS) several times before (we first caught wind of it in 2006). The device, however, is still classified as an investigational device by the FDA; it is undergoing phase II clinical trials in the United States at three sites: the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, and New York-Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center.
Check out the UCLA press release explaining the technology and its use in the university’s Heart Transplant Program:
After a heart is removed from a donor’s body, it is placed in a high-tech OCS device and is immediately revived to a beating state, perfused with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, and maintained at an appropriate temperature. The device also features monitors that display how the heart is functioning during transport.
According to [Dr. Abbas Ardehali, surgical director of the heart and lung transplantation program at UCLA], the technology could also improve donor-heart function and could potentially help transplant teams better assess donor hearts — including identifying possible rejection factors that could complicate tissue-matching — since the organs can be tested in the device, over a longer period of time.
In addition, it could help expand the donor pool by allowing donor hearts to be safely transported across longer distances, he said.
UCLA’s Heart Transplant Program is leading the nationwide study, which started in 2009. The randomized trial will enroll a total of 128 patients — half whose donor hearts will be transported the traditional way, and half who will receive hearts in the device. To date, UCLA has enrolled nine patients in the phase 2 trial. Columbia University and the Cleveland Clinic are also enrolling patients, and more centers are being added.
“There are not enough donor hearts to help all the patients who are waiting,” Ardehali, said. “If we can find ways to improve upon our limited supply of hearts, then more lives will be saved.”
L.A. Times article: Study tests if a warm heart makes a better transplant
Manufacturer’s website: TransMedics