Increasing the Availability of Donor Lungs
Lung transplants save lives and improve the quality of life for many people with end-stage lung failure. But while researchers have made significant advances in improving the success of lung transplants in recent years, serious challenges still face those waiting for a lung.
Lung transplant waiting lists are increasing as the population ages. Unfortunately, 20 per cent of those on waiting lists will die before they receive a chance to receive a life-saving transplant.
Dr. Marcelo Cypel, Canada Research Chair in Lung Transplantation, aims to ease this problem by increasing the availability of donor lungs and by improving the assessment and quality of donor organs.
Cypel was paramount in the development of a ground-breaking technique called Normothermic Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP) that has improved how donor lungs are assessed. Donor lungs are usually chilled and transplanted as soon as possible. But EVLP allows surgeons to keep lungs at body temperature—and functioning—during the preservation period. This allows surgeons to make more accurate assessments of the condition of the lungs, and enables surgeons to fix damaged lungs more effectively before transplantation. The result is an increase in the availability of healthy lungs for people with serious lung disease.
Cypel’s EVLP research could increase the usage rates for donor lungs from today’s close to 15 per cent to about 50 per cent. This will greatly alleviate organ shortages. His research could also be of significant use for treatmenting and repairing other solid donor organs that encounter similar problems in transplantation.