23 July 2014
Organ transplantation can save the life of a patient with end-stage organ failure, but for the best chance of success the donor organ must be collected and transplanted all within 12 hours. After this point, the tissue begins to deteriorate and the organ is discarded. Researchers have now found a way to preserve rat livers by slowly cooling the organ to a sub-zero temperature. The livers are first submerged in an antifreeze solution (pictured) - preventing the formation of ice-crystals - and can be stored in this way for up to four days. This technique could potentially be scaled up for a variety of human organs simply by tweaking the rate of cooling. In the UK there is a pressing shortage of available donor organs, and over 7,000 people on the organ transplant list. Preserving organs in this way would enable thousands more transplants to take place every year.
Written by Helen Thomas