01/Sep/2014 - Last News Update: 21:00

'Lung washing' could boost transplants

Category: Health

Published: 30th May 2012 08:58:18

"Washing" lungs before they are transplanted could increase numbers of the organs suitable for donation, according to doctors in Newcastle.

Only one in five donated lungs are good enough to be transplanted safely.

A trial, being led by Newcastle University, is trying to improve the quality of the lungs by pumping nutrients and oxygen through them.

The British Transplantation Society said the technique could "dramatically" increase the number of lungs used.

Around a quarter of people waiting for an organ transplant die in the first year on a transplant list.

The lungs are delicate organs and the events which lead to a donor's death can also damage the lungs. It is why so few can be transplanted.

Doctors are using a modified heart-lung bypass machine to prepare the organs. Air is pumped into the lungs, which can absorb oxygen, while nutrients are pumped through the blood vessels.

How many will be usable is unknown. If it is only half that's still a 50% increase in the number of lung transplants and that's going to make a huge difference”

The technique called "ex-vivo lung perfusion" can clear a build-up of water on the lungs or can treat them with medication to clear infection.

Prof Andrew Fisher, who is leading the trial, told the BBC that the technique allows doctors to monitor lungs to see if their function improves and become suitable for transplant.

"It won't undo permanent damage, such as from emphysema, but it helps lungs that should be functioning well, but aren't."

He estimates that it will mean doctors can assess twice the number of lungs they currently do.

Prof Fisher said: "How many will be usable is unknown. If it is only half that's still a 50% increase in the number of lung transplants and that's going to make a huge difference."

He described improving the quality of organs as the "new frontier" for transplants after "mastering" surgery and rejection drugs.

Eight patients have already received lungs that have been prepared through this technique.

The trial is being widened to NHS transplant centres in London, Cambridge, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.

Doctors will need to check that there are no complications, such as more infections, as a result of the procedure.

Prof Chris Watson, the president of the British Transplantation Society, said: "Currently around a quarter of potential recipients die in the first year while waiting for suitable lungs and this study has the potential to transform that situation for the benefit of all the patients waiting for a lung transplant."

He thinks similar procedures will eventually be used for many organs: "I think it is something that will take off," he told the BBC.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is funding some of the research. Its chief executive Matthew Reed said: "Sadly many people currently die before lungs become available.

"The ex-vivo lung perfusion research is revolutionary for people with cystic fibrosis as it makes more lungs available and therefore offers real hope and life for many people."

NHS Blood and Transplant said there was a "severe shortage" of organs and that ways of using donate organs more effectively were "desperately needed".

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. 'Lung washing' could boost transplants [Online] (Updated 30th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1431781/Lung-washing-could-boost-transplants [Accessed 1st Sep 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Ken Rees 'Great Escape' inspiration, dies aged 93

    A Welsh airman thought to have been the inspiration for Steve McQueen's character in the Great Escape has died at the age of 93.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • China accuses MPs of Hong Kong 'interference'

    The Chinese authorities have accused British MPs of interfering in Hong Kong's affairs, Newsnight has learned.
  • Scottish manufacturers report lowest orders in UK

    Scottish manufacturers have reported the lowest orders and employment of any part of the UK over the last three months, according to a survey.
  • Policeman to go on trial over six euro theft

    An Irish police officer is due to go on trial in December charged with stealing 6.25 euros (£4.94)
  • Release of three Americans in N Korea a 'top priority'

    The White House has said securing the release of three American citizens detained in North Korea is a "top priority" and it's doing all it can.