Reprogramming Organs Could Be the Future of Transplants

This could mean safer life-saving organ transplants.
January 5, 2017, 8:31pm

When waiting for an organ transplant, patients have a lot to worry about: whether the body will fight against the organ, the effects immunosuppressant drugs could have on their bodies, and the foods and activities they'll have to give up.

Researchers are trying to change that by using a technique to fill a donor organ with a patient's cells so that their bodies are more likely to accept the new organ instead of treating it like a foreign object. This would be welcome news for the 120,000 people on organ transplant waiting lists in the US alone.


Miromatrix Medical, a small business funded by the National Science Foundation, is testing out a method to strip existing cells from an organ—a process called perfusion decellularization—by pumping solution through blood vessels in the organ. After about two days, the organ is still structurally sound, but it doesn't have any cells left inside and has turned stark white.

Then, when a patient has been selected for the transplant, the organ would be pumped full of the patient's cells. Miromatrix Medical states they should incorporate into the organ and should be fully functional. By using an existing organ for the base, rather than 3D-printing an organ scaffold, it already has existing pathways for getting oxygen and nutrients where they need to go.

"People have been trying to create this ultimate goal, this panacea of a whole, functional organ," but the field has struggled with getting nutrients into the organs to keep them alive, Dominique Seetapun, Miromatrix Medical senior project development scientist said in the company video.

Seetapun said the new technique is an improvement on previous methods that dipped organs in detergent solutions that often broke down the organ's structures and led to complications when new cells were introduced.

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