Current Heart Transplant Problems

While great strides have been made since the first heart transplant in 1967, one thing has stayed fairly consistent: the way donor hearts are transported from donor to recipient. Under the current protocol, the donated heart is placed into a saline-filled jar and then into a cooler packed with ice. It is then quickly flown to the recipient at the transplant center. This practice, known as hypothermic storage, keeps hearts viable for 3 to 4 hours.

This 3- to 4-hour timeframe:

  • Prevents conventional tissue matching.
    Tissue matching is a practice done with other organ transplants (such as kidney and pancreas) that determines if the organ tissue will be compatible with the recipient’s tissue. Should the donor and recipient be incompatible, the recipient’s body will likely reject the donor organ, requiring extra immunosuppressive medications. Even with immunosuppressive medications, heart transplant statistics show that 20 percent of heart transplants mortality is directly from rejection of the donor heart by the recipient’s immune system.
  • Limits the number of candidates available to receive the heart.
    The heart recipient needs to be in close enough proximity to the donated heart and the transplant center.  Geography is an important factor and transplant centers are unevenly distributed across the world.
  • Compromises the quality of donated hearts.
    In the current ice/cooler method, the quality of the heart quickly diminishes. A marginal heart can quickly become unusable for transplantation due to the stresses of current hypothermic storage practices.
  • Results in wasted donated hearts.
    Despite a high demand for donor hearts, heart transplant statistics reveal that about 20 percent of donated hearts are not used because organ procurement agencies cannot find a recipient in time.

Asporto improves heart transplants

Hibernicor’s Asporto heart preservation device improves and prolongs preservation of the donor heart. In its current prototype, Asporto can preserve a donor heart up to 6 hours.

Read more about how Asporto works.