More viable donated organs by using vitrification organ banking

Stephen van Sickle outlined his work at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence SENS6 meeting in Cambridge, UK. Stephen has frozen pig kidneys. CT scans revealed a lot less fracturing than with vitrification alone. The next stage is to rewarm the organs to see if they remain viable.

Cryopreservation by vitrification is the current state of the art in experimental organ preservation for transplant. Unlike methods in currently clinical use which only preserve large vascular organs in transplantable condition for hours, vitrification and storage below the glass transition temperature (~-130C) would enable safe storage for years or decades. Success with organ cryopreservation by vitrification would permit true banking of organs, increasing the number available, improving immune matching, and reducing wait list times. Two major limitations to this method are thermomechanical fracturing and the inherent biochemical toxicity of vitrification solutions. Arigos Biomedical is developing new technology that can both eliminate fracturing and reduce the effective toxicity of vitrifiable cryoprotectants. Preliminary experiments have demonstrated elimination of fractures in vitrified swine kidneys, as well as dramatically improved cooling rates from 0 to -100C, which reduce exposure time to cryoprotectant solutions.

Nearly 1 in 5 donor kidneys is discarded in the US each year, because a suitable recipient or clinic cannot be found in time.

Standard freezing creates damaging ice crystals. An alternative is vitrification. This process is often used to store human eggs or embryos for years and involves infusing the tissue with an antifreeze-like liquid and rapidly cooling it to create a glassy state. Doing this with large organs such as hearts and kidneys is harder, as more antifreeze can be toxic and the glassy organ can crack.

To tackle this problem, van Sickle combined vitrification with persufflation, in which blood is replaced with a gas – helium in this case. The organ cools more quickly, less antifreeze is needed and pockets of tissue are separated by gas, protecting against shattering.

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