The Key to Preserving Organs for Transplant?

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Donated blood can be refrigerated and stored for six weeks. But donated organs have a very short shelf life. A heart or lung can be kept viable for transplantation for only six hours, a pancreas or liver for 12 hours and a kidney for less than 30 hours. Any donated organ that is past its prime ends up going to waste instead of saving lives.

Freezing organs, rather than just refrigerating them, seems like a logical solution, but in practice it doesn’t work. When organs are frozen, ice crystals form and cause irreversible damage to the cells.

“The ability to freeze organs and to then thaw them without causing damage to the organ itself would be revolutionary in terms of our chances to save lives,” says Prof. Ido Braslavsky from the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Together with his Hebrew University team, Braslavsky is contributing significantly to the effort to perfect cryopreservation – the process of preserving cells, tissues and organs in sub-zero temperatures.

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