There is an urgent need for tissues and organs for transplantation. Doctors conducted over 24,000 organ transplants in the United States in 2002; yet someone is added to the donor waiting list every 12 minutes and 16 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. A significant roadblock to the broader use of transplantation, regardless of the source (donated human, cross-species or artificial), has been the problem of preserving the transplant tissue. Better preservation techniques would allow transplant materials to be shipped anywhere in the world or, better yet, collected and stored in something akin to blood banks until needed.
Organs and some tissues are presently stored for short periods at refrigerator temperatures (approximately 4 C) and freezing has not been possible due to ice crystals, which damage delicate cells and greatly reduce the viability or functions of the tissue. Chemicals called cryoprotectants reduce ice formation but have toxic effects that introduce their own problems. The Organ Recovery Systems technique combines a mixture of cryoprotectant compounds that cancel each others toxicity and careful control of the cooling and warming processes to minimize damage to the tissue. The technique is discussed in U.S. patent no. 6,740,484. (Patent text available at www.uspto.gov.)
Contact: Michael Baum
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)