Although not without ethical issues, a $250,000 device allows to keep hearts alive after they have been removed from a brain-dead patient. The sterile chamber clamps to the heart, feeding it nutrients and blood, extending the amount of time it can be kept outside of a body before transplant.
The heart in a box is part of a wider shift away from shipping organs cold to keeping them warm and functioning. In recent tests of such techniques, called warm perfusion, scientists have shown they can cut off a pig’s leg then replace it 12 hours later if it receives a supply of nutrients.
“Cold is the old thing, and warm is the new thing,” says Korkut Uygun, a transplant surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital. “Warm is the way to go with metabolically active tissue.”
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