This is a human heart, alive and beating, in a box

It's like something out of science fiction or a horror movie or both: in order to facilitate transplants, we can now keep human hearts alive and beating and toasty warm inside a special electromechanical box full of fresh blood.

Up until this point, live organs have been transported from donors to patients in coolers, buried in ice to keep them "fresh." This only works for about six hours, which is why private jets, helicopters, and ambulances are used to speed these irreplaceable and lifesaving items around the country as quickly as possible.

Now, if I where a disembodied heart, I'd find an icy cooler a distinctly uncomfortable way to travel. A company called TransMedics agrees, which is why it's constructed this self-contained Organ Care System, or OCS. You can stick a heart into this fancy device, hook it up to a supply of donated blood, and start it beating again, and it'll happily sit there, warm and toasty and productive and supplied with all the oxygen and nutrients it could want. The housing is even clear plastic so that the heart can see out and enjoy the trip, which is probably a fairly unique experience for an otherwise internal organ.

You can see how it works in the video below, although keep in mind that it does show A LIVE BEATING HEART IN A BOX:

The OCS definitely works, and UCLA us currently testing it out in a phase 2 clinical study to make sure that it works at least as well as, and hopefully better than, the cooler + ice method. If everything goes well, it could mean that organs of all kinds will be able to travel much farther to get to the patients who need them. Oh, and we'll be that much closer to finally being able to make heads in jars a reality. I can't wait!

UCLA and TransMedics, via MedicalExpress

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