In mid-November UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center performed the nation’s first “breathing lung” transplant. The 57-year-old patient who suffered from pulmonary fibrosis received two new lungs and is recuperating from the 7-hour surgery.
The transplant involved the Organ Care System (OCS), an experimental organ-preservation device developed by TransMedics. The OCS keeps the donor lungs functioning and “breathing” outside the body while being transported. Currently donor lungs are transported in a non-functioning, non-breathing state inside an icebox.
With the OCS, the lungs are removed from the donor’s body and placed in a high-tech OCS box. There, they are revived to a warm, breathing state and perfused with oxygen and a special solution that is supplemented with packed red-blood cells. The device also features monitors that display how the lungs are functioning during transport. According to Abbas Ardehali, MD, professor of cardiothoracic surgery and director of the heart and lung transplantation program at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, this technology could improve donor-lung function, as well as help transplant teams better assess donor lungs, 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 lungs to be safely transported across longer distances.
“Organs were never meant to be frozen on ice,” said Ardehali. “Lungs are very sensitive and can easily be damaged during the donation process. The cold storage method does not allow for reconditioning of the lungs before transplantation, but this promising ‘breathing lung’ technology enables us to potentially improve the function of the donor lungs before they are placed in the recipient.”
UCLA is currently leading the US arm of the international, multicenter phase 2 clinical INSPIRE study of the OCS. The purpose of the trial is to compare donor lungs transported using the OCS technology with the standard icebox method. The INSPIRE trial is also underway at lung transplant centers in Europe, Australia and Canada and will enroll a total of 264 randomized patients. [removed]Results[/removed] from a preliminary study conducted in Europe and published last month in the Lancet, showed good lung transplantation outcomes following preservations using the OCS system.