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EMBARGOED Portable device points to better lung transplants

By Chris Wickham

LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Scientists have successfullytested a portable device to prepare lungs for transplant,potentially boosting the number of organs available and reducingthe risk the operation will fail.

The Organ Care System, which has been tested on 12 patientsin Germany and Spain, allows donor lungs to be prepared andpreserved for transplant at body temperature, keeping them inbetter condition than the usual practise of cooling them down,according to results of a study published in the Lancet.

Gregor Warnecke at the Hanover Medical School in Germanytold Reuters the device could significantly increase the numberof lungs available for transplant.

Around 330 lung transplants are performed each year inGermany, for instance, but at the same time there are almost1,200 liver transplants, which means in excess of 800 lungsthat, for a variety of reasons, are not used.

"This is the potential that we intend to look out for infuture using the OCS," Warnecke said. "Even if we do not believethat all these 800 donors per year in Germany really could beused as lung donors, certainly a significant proportion could beharvested, connected to the OCS, and evaluated for potentialtransplantibility."

Donor lungs are usually flushed, and preserved at coldtemperatures before they are transplanted. Cooling reducesdecomposition of lung tissue but can degrade the organ in otherways and makes for a longer transplant operation.

The process of normothermic perfusion - where donor lungsare kept around normal body temperature and flushed with amixture of anti-rejection drugs, vitamins and hormones - keepsthe organs in better condition and can actually improve theirquality.

There are some machines that perform normothermic perfusionon transplant lungs but they are not portable, so lungs removedfrom donors cannot always reach them in time.

The small-scale study is being followed up with a largertrial.

(Editing by Jason Webb)

((chris.wickham@thomsonreuters.com))

Keywords: SCIENCE HEALTH LUNGTRANSPLANTS