[ExI] Glass could be key to banking organs

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Thu Sep 19 13:55:36 UTC 2013

The following article was in the September 14 2013 issue of New
Scientist magazine
and may be of some interest to fans of cryonics:

TRANSFORMING donated organs into a glassy state and putting them on ice
could enable many more people to have transplants.

When a person dies, doctors often have mere hours – or in the case of
kidneys, just over a day – to find a recipient before the organ degrades.

"This precludes any chance of banking organs and makes every transplant an
emergency procedure, often in the dead of night... when patients aren't
ready," says Stephen van Sickle of Arigos Biomedical in Mountain View,

Nearly 1 in 5 donor kidneys is discarded in the US each year, because a
suitable recipient or clinic cannot be found in time. But what if these
organs could be frozen?

Standard freezing creates damaging ice crystals. An alternative is
vitrification. This process is often used to store human eggs or embryos
for years and involves infusing the tissue with an antifreeze-like liquid
and rapidly cooling it to create a glassy state. Doing this with large
organs such as hearts and kidneys is harder, as more antifreeze can be
toxic and the glassy organ can crack.

To tackle this problem, van Sickle combined vitrification with
persufflation, in which blood is replaced with a gas – helium in this case.
The organ cools more quickly, less antifreeze is needed and pockets of
tissue are separated by gas, protecting against shattering.

So far, van Sickle, who outlined his work at the Strategies for Engineered
Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK, has frozen pig kidneys. CT
scans revealed a lot less fracturing than with vitrification alone. The
next stages to rewarm the organs to see if they remain viable.

Greg Fahy of Californian firm 21st Century Medicine has vitrified, rewarmed
and transplanted smaller rabbit kidneys. The new approach is "potentially
valuable", he says.
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