New research could save lives by prolonging the viability of donor kidneys

A new method of preserving donated kidneys developed in the UK could reduce the number of organs being discarded, experts have suggested.

Using three years of data from the NHS Blood and Transplantation Agency, the charity determined how many kidneys were considered clinically unfit for use.

But a new technique to better preserve kidneys before surgery could keep them suitable longer and increase the number of organs available for transplantation.

The researchers believe their methods could be adopted within the next three years, directly addressing some of the logistical and operational issues in many transplant settings.

Sandra Currie, Chief Executive of Kidney Research UK, said: “Patients wait on average over a year and a half for a kidney transplant, some wait much longer and when they get the call they can be faced with a very difficult and tense time with one urgent trip to the hospital to avoid the risk of missing a life-changing organ.

“Unfortunately, we know of many patients who have been called to the hospital several times only to be told that the donor kidney cannot be used after all.

“An important reason for this is the currently very short time available to keep the kidney in good condition before the operation for transplantation.

“The research we are funding aims to expand this critical time window from harvest to transplantation.”

dr John Stone and Professor James Fildes of Pebble Biotechnology Laboratories in Alderley Park, Macclesfield, have made advances in keeping harvested kidneys viable longer.

The research uses a method called normothermic perfusion, in which oxygen-rich blood is pumped through a kidney to simulate blood flow within an organ.

Cold storage of the kidney is currently the standard method, but the longer the organ is on ice, the greater the chance that it will be damaged. Perfusion could offer a storage solution that does not compromise the viability of the organ.

Current guidelines recommend that perfusion should only be used to test kidney function, ideally less than three hours before the procedure damages the organ.

But in an experimental setting, researchers have developed a new protocol using pig kidneys with no signs of injury after 24 hours. You are now trying to extend the perfusion to days.

dr Stone said: “We have previously been able to perfuse a kidney for 24 hours without damage.

“With current guidelines recommending only three to six hours of perfusion, our methods could allow more time for more patients to receive their life-saving transplants and for fewer valuable organs to be wasted.”

The inspiration for the project came from Dr. Stone’s 11-year-old nephew, Luke, who received a kidney transplant from his father in May this year. The average transplant takes up to 20 years, so Luke will likely need at least one more in his lifetime, meaning the work could be crucial in giving him a better outcome for years to come.

dr Stone, a senior scientist at Pebble Biotechnology Laboratories, said: “The clock starts ticking as soon as you harvest a kidney from a donor, you have a short time before the organ becomes non-viable.

“Transplant centers are under tremendous pressure to ensure the organ is not wasted, but face operational challenges such as a lack of resources and sharing operating rooms with other departments, meaning that despite best efforts, surgeons simply run out of time.” New research could save lives by prolonging the viability of donor kidneys

Fry Electronics Team

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