A new technique to rehabilitate lungs that are too damaged to be considered for transplant could benefit an increasing population of patients with end-stage lung disease. About 80 percent of the already limited supply of donor lungs are too damaged to be considered for transplantation, according to senior author Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, MA, associate professor of Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
In May, Bacchetta and colleagues from Columbia University published a study in Nature Communications that demonstrates a cross-circulation technique can maintain lungs for 36 hours, giving doctors time to rehabilitate the lungs and test new interventions. The regenerated lungs also met criteria for transplantation, which isn't possible with current methods that provide doctors about six hours to assess the lungs and not enough time to rehabilitate them.
"Our work has established a new benchmark in organ recovery," Bacchetta said. "It has opened up new pathways for translational applications and basic science exploration. We have literally spent years refining this technology to improve the recovery and regeneration of organs."
Further study will be required to determine how well the rehabilitated lungs function, safety of the method, and how the lungs respond to immunosuppressive drugs given after transplantation.