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5 June, 2006 - 08:22 By Staff Reporter

Cambridge firm at heart of historic operation

A portable organ preservation system from TransMedics, a company backed by Cambridge-based 3i, was used by Papworth Hospital to perform an historic transplant to a beating human heart – a first in the UK.

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This follows recent success in Germany with the TransMedics product.

3i backed TransMedics back in 2003. The company's new system for organ preservation maintains human organs in a functioning state outside of the body, which is impossible with the current system of storing and transporting organs preserved only in ice.

3i is delighted with TransMedics' and the clinics' success and the products' potential to transform its market and patient care generally.

The Papworth operation was performed on a 58 year old patient and the British Heart Foundation has praised TransMedics’ organ care system. 

After removal from the donor, the heart is placed into the organ care system, designed to maintain human organs in a functioning state outside the body.

The heart is then immediately revived to a beating state, perfused with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood and maintained at the appropriate temperature. 

Using the system, organs are kept in their physiological, beating state during transport to the recipient and until implantation.

British Heart Foundation Professor Bruce Rosengard, the UK principal investigator for the trial said: “We are extremely excited by the possibilities that this TransMedics Organ Care System offers. 

“This first patient is now seven days post surgery, is back on a normal ward and is doing extremely well. Papworth is one of only four hospitals in Europe who are taking part in this trial and if the System continues to prove successful, it could significantly increase the number of donor hearts available.”

Matching is so important that donation and allocation of organs needs to be organised nationally.

Chris Rudge, managing and transplant director of UK Transplant whose remit is to ensure that donated organs are matched and allocated in a fair and unbiased way said: “UK Transplant welcomes any initiative to improve organ quality and availability for patients. As the organ care system evolves in the future it offers great promise not only for patients awaiting heart transplantation but also for those awaiting other donated organs.”

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