Stig Steen, the scientist at the Lund University in Sweden, and his research team found a new way of keeping the heart “functional” outside of the human body for more than a day. The organ is held in a box and provided with the oxygenated solution by a heart-lung machine.
The first human trial had been conducted in August at Skane University Hospital, with five more yet to come. The heart was kept in the box for three hours during the first human transplant, but that period will be increased in the future. In animals, the longest preservation time was 24 hours.
The purpose of the research was to stop distance from being the limiting factor in the heart transplant process. This method would enable patients to receive better-suited organs, especially if the donor is not in their close proximity so, “This means, in principle, that we can perform transplants involving hearts from all over Europe,” explained Johan Nilsson, a surgeon who transplanted the heart.
Before the invention of Steen’s method, the heart was transplanted from the icebox, however, the time for the transplant was limited to up to four hours.