A machine that simulates a warm human body kept a kidney functioning for almost 24 hours in a test of a technique researchers say could preserve donated organs longer.
The team at the University of Chicago Hospitals said Saturday that the kidney, the first human organ to be connected to the machine, functioned just as it would inside a human body after they connected it at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
It survived until researchers disconnected it for study.
Researcher Dr. David Cronin said the technique also could be used to test organs deemed questionable for transplant to see if they're acceptable.
Dr. Alan Langnas, transplantation chief at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, called the discovery exciting.
"If we can apply it to humans, then I think it will have important implications in the practice of kidney transplanting in the United States," said Langnas, who was not involved in the research.
He said a system pumping warm blood could help reduce the number of kidneys that don't work immediately after transplantation because kidneys are kept in cold storage before being transplanted.
Organs can become less effective the longer they are kept on ice, Cronin said.
Cronin would not disclose where the donor kidney came from, but he said it could not have been used for a transplant.
The preservation machine was developed by TransMedics Inc. of Woburn, Mass. The company is sponsoring the research.
The machine works with a heart-like pump that pushes blood through tubes into the kidney, which was kept at about body temperature. The kidney filtered the blood and produced urine that was collected in a bag. The kidney also was being fed with oxygen and nutrients.
"That organ is happy," Cronin said of the kidney, which was placed in a plastic container next to the electronic equipment that runs the machine.
Dr. Waleed Hassanein, president and chief executive of TransMedics, said the company will submit its trials to the Food and Drug Administration in the fall and hopes to market its machine by next year. It is being tested at nine U.S. and British hospitals.
Cronin said the next step is to test other organs on the machine. More than 500 animal organs already have been tested.