Michigan biotech looks to freeze organs for future transplants

With about 115,000 Americans on the transplant list for a life-saving organ and 20 people dying everyday waiting for an organ donor, companies like Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Arigos Biomedical are developing methods to preserve organs for future transplants using technology once thought impossible, according to Futurism.

Here are five things to know:

1. Organs do not last long once removed from the human body, which contributes to the ever-growing organ transplant list. Kidneys must be transplanted within 12 hours of donation. Hearts only last six hours outside of the human body before they begin to decay, even if they are on ice.

2. Freezing organs for donation is not a new idea, but scientists, researchers and physicians have been waiting for technology to catch up. Two of the major roadblocks to freezing organs deal with temperature. The first problem is freezing an organ to -120 degrees Celsius, the temperature where molecular activity stops, can cause blood vessels to rupture. The second issue is the warming process, since organs tend to crack and pop when thawed.

3. This freezing and thawing process was seemingly solved in the '70s through a process called vitrification, where scientists pumped organic compounds into organs to pull the water out. This process allowed the organs and remaining organic compounds to freeze like glass. , However, the organs were no longer usable due to the toxicity of the solutions used for vitrification.

4. Stephen Van Sickle, chief strategic officer at Arigos Biomedical, discovered previous abandoned research that illustrated a procedure to flush out arteries and veins of the organ and replace it with gas. By using inert helium gas, Arigos researchers were able to cool organs without causing internal fractures.

5. Arigos Biomedical is conducting extensive animal-based testing before advancing the process to human trials.

"We have recovered pig kidneys from temperatures of -120 degrees Celsius, which is basically the glass transition temperature," Tanya Jones, co-founder and CEO of Arigos Biomedical, told Futurism. "We tested on pig hearts, and it worked so well and so quickly that we were unexpectedly unprepared to test the recovery."

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