New Organ Care System is Revolutionizing Transplants and Saving Lives
Glenn Rockwood expected a long, frightening wait for a new heart; many patients often wait up to a year. Luckily, he was getting his heart at Mass General Hospital, which uses a new heart preservation technology called the Organ Care System (OCS) that is revolutionizing transplants. Rockwood received a new heart in just four days.
“It makes a dramatic difference,” said Rockwood, who is a member of the HeartBrothers Foundation, a Boston-based nonprofit that gives financial and emotional support to heart failure patients and their families. HBF recently hosted a webinar on the OCS and its impact on heart transplantation.
Made by TransMedics in Andover, the OCS is portable, multi-organ preservation and assessment technology that mimics the human body. Warm, oxygenated blood pumps through the organs in a living, functional state.
“The heart is beating, the lungs are breathing, the liver is producing bile, and the kidney is making urine,” explained Waleed Hassanein, TransMedics CEO. The OCS facilitates testing on the organs and even treatment with antibiotics and other drugs to make the organs as healthy as possible before transplant.
The OCS is approved for lung transplants and is in final FDA review for heart and liver transplantation in the U.S. Rockwood was part of that OCS heart trial and is excited that OCS could make hundreds if not thousands more donated hearts available to patients who will likely die without them.
“OCS opens the donor pool significantly,” Rockwood said. “It will allow better matching of organs from farther distances.”
Until now, donated hearts could last about four hours on ice. With the OCS, that time expands to 12 hours, which means donor hearts can be transported much farther distances and reach many more people. Donated lungs can survive 24+ hours and donated livers can last for several days on an OCS.
“We are in a totally different era. Times are changing and opportunities are expanding,” said Karen Lord with New England Donor Services, who also spoke at the HeartBrothers webinar.
Several Boston hospitals are participating in the OCS heart trial, including MGH, Tufts, and Brigham and Women’s. There are currently more than 3,600 people waiting for heart transplants in the U.S.
“We want to make sure that every available heart, every available lung, every available liver can be transplanted into a suitable patient and we don’t lose any organs,” Waleed said.
The HeartBrothers webinar series continues with a program on Longer-Term Survival with Heart Transplants on June 2 at 5:30 p.m. and a look at the HeartBrothers House on August 11 at 5:30 p.m. The HeartBrothers House offers heart failure patients and their families housing for $30 per night at Church Park Apartments, a luxury apartment complex that is close to all major medical centers. Learn more at www.heartbrothers.org.