Human heart beats on its own outside body during test of new organ preservation system

Sunday, October 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A human heart was kept beating on its own outside a body Saturday during a test of a new medical device intended to aid in organ transplants.

Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center used the heart from an 80-year-old man to show how the Portable Organ Preservation System works. The machine had already been tested using a human kidney and animal organs.

``What we have in our hands today is a technology which allows the organ to be removed from the body and allows it to function,'' said Dr. Robert Kormos, director of the center's thoracic transplantation and artificial heart program.

Doctors say the technology could give surgeons more time to get potential recipients to a hospital where an organ can be transplanted, and more time to test for organ matches.

Organs are chilled after being removed from the donor, a process in which deterioration begins immediately. A heart can last about six hours after being removed.

The machine was developed by TransMedics Inc. of Woburn, Mass., pushes warm blood into the organ, keeping it functioning.

The heart used in Saturday's demonstration was deemed unsuitable for transplant. Doctors said they would test it for 24 hours.

The first human organ to be connected to the machine was a kidney, which was kept functioning for almost 24 hours in a test this summer at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Waleed Hassanein, president and chief executive of TransMedics, said the company will submit its trials to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the fall and hopes to market its machine by the end of next year.