Research looks to build organ stockpiles

Posted: January 4, 2015 at 8:43 am

TUCSON Dr. Zain Khalpey stands next to a ghostly white lung pumping rhythmically on the table next to him. Thats pretty damn good, actually, Khalpey says as he gazes at the data recorded by the lungs ventilator.

The ventilator indicates that the pig lung is inflating and deflating like a normal lung. Experiments such as this bring research a step closer to the operating room.

Khalpey, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, focuses his research on making more organs available to patients who need a transplant. Every day, 18 people on organ transplant lists die, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In Arizona patients have to wait two to three years for a lung transplant, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This waiting period is emotionally and financially draining for patients.

Khalpey is trying to shrink the wait time. He is taking damaged organs and refurbishing them so they end up in a needy patients body. Other organs too damaged to be refurbished are stripped of their cells and used to grow new organs with the patients stem cells.

In the future, donor organs may not even be needed. Khalpey is working on hybrid organs that are 3-D printed and then seeded with the patients stem cells.

From London

to Tucson

Khalpeys passion for transplant surgery started on a rainy day in 1990s London. A 16-year-old boy lay on the operating table about to undergo a heart-and-lung transplant. Cystic fibrosis caused his lungs to become a breeding ground for infection that whittled away his ability to breathe.

A team of surgeons replaced the boys lungs as well as his heart because he was more likely to survive with donor organs. The medical team rushed the boys viable heart to a second operating room, where it gave new life to another patient.

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Research looks to build organ stockpiles

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