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Animal research, Health

03 - 04 - 2015

More hearts available for transplants

Researchers have successfully transplanted the heart of a donor that had stopped beating. This feat only made possible thanks to years of research could increase the number of hearts available to transplants.


A non-beating heart transplant


So far, with the exception of the first transplants performed in the 1960s, only hearts that were still beating were used for transplants. However, transplants using kidneys and livers taken from donors whose hearts had stopped have been allowed since 2006 in France. This wasn't the case for the heart - very sensitive to being deprived of blood and oxygen. Consequently, fewer organs were available for transplants.


Teams of surgeons, researchers and engineers have been trying for years to solve this problem. Experiments on animals - mostly pigs - allowed for progress in terms of developing technics and equipment.



Thus, for the last few months, teams of surgeons from Australia and England have begun to transplant non-beating hearts. The teams use equipment and a technic developed by the company TransMedic. The procedure is a race against the watch - trials on animals have shown that the heart needs to be restarted in less than 30 mins.


More Hearts available to transplants


Today, some 400 heart transplants are performed each year in France - limited by the number of grafts available. Thanks to this new technique, more transplants can be carried out and more people can be saved.


This work, made possible more than 50 years after the work pioneering work of Norman Shumway - who carried out the first heart transplants on dogs - is an important reminder that animal research remains crucial for the progress of medicine.