The national transplant charity Live Life Then Give Life are funding ground-breaking research which aims to increase the number of transplants carried out in the UK. This cutting edge study uses a brand new clot-busting solution infused into the donor organ via a perfusion machine, to increase the number of viable organs for transplantation.
Perfusion machines are already being used to prolong the viability of organs before they are transplanted into the recipient, however this innovative new technique perfuses the organ with special anti-coagulant proteins to pre-condition it, and prevent clotting. The research, which is being carried out by Imperial College under London Renal and Transplant Centre at Hammersmith Hospital, is in its early stages, and currently only focusing on kidneys, however so far the results are extremely promising. The hope is that this technique will have a three-fold positive effect on the donation and transplantation of organs. Firstly, it will increase the number of viable organs, which will in turn increase the number of transplants carried out; secondly it will reduce the event of clots forming in the newly transplanted organ, which can cause organ failure. Thirdly, this technique will reduce the need for anti-clotting drugs to be given to the patient, thereby reducing the risk of bleeding and associated complications.
Mr Vassilios Papalois, the consultant transplant surgeon at Hammersmith Hospital who is overseeing the project run by PhD student Karim Hamaoui says "We hope that we will be able to use organs that are currently considered to be not suitable for transplantation and also increase the chances of post-transplant survival and long-term function of those organs. There is immense potential benefit for our patients."
There are currently ten thousand people in need of a transplant in the UK right now, and over six and a half thousand of those are waiting for a kidney. The wait for a new kidney is a long one, averaging about 3- 4 years. One thousand people on the transplant waiting list will die this year due to the shortage of organs.
Emily Thackray, Chairman of Live Life Then Give Life says “We are delighted to be playing such a significant part in this exciting research project. Over two thirds of people on the transplant waiting list are in need of a kidney and we need to increase the number of transplants carried out each year. This innovative new use of proteins in the perfusion machine to prevent clotting could be a significant development in transplant medicine, and we’re looking forward to watching the developments.”
It is hoped that the results of this study will ultimately be used to improve viability of other organs besides kidneys. 23-year-old Victoria Tremlett has been waiting for a double lung transplant for almost 4 years. She says: “I have had 7 false alarm calls for transplant; calls which have been unable to go ahead due to the donor lungs not functioning at a high enough level. Being called for a possible transplant is an emotional experience; there is the promise of a future, hope and endless possibilities, all of which vanish before your eyes when you are told the organs are not suitable and the transplant cannot go ahead.
My lungs are so damaged that simple tasks like getting washed and dressed, brushing my hair and even walking to my bathroom are now beyond me. I depend on help with every task I do and my life is unrecognisable from any other 24 year old. I am dependant on oxygen, and use a wheelchair to go out. I have no independence and cannot plan for the future because I don't know if I have one.
The research LLTGL are funding has the potential to change the lives of those waiting for transplant. By potentially increasing the number of donor organs and decreasing the occurrence of false alarms, lives will be saved and patients will be spared the painful experience of being called for organs that aren't viable.
L- R: Karim Hamaoui, Emily Thackray, Vassilios Papalois, and Trustees Mandy Venters & Matt Coyne