Transplants (allogenic transplants (transplants from 1 person to another)) are a marvellous medical way of prolonging the life of people struck down by certain debilitating diseases; extending their life for a considerable number of years and often giving them a 'second shot' at life. However transplants are very difficult to carry out and their success rests upon a variety of factors such as: matching blood types, matching HLA groups and MHC classes, and the viability of the organ itself (is it not damaged, free from disease, etc.).
The most poignant factor of all is the distance between the donor and the recipient. This is because as soon as an organ is taken out of the body, it is cut off from the blood supply and all of the nutrients passed through the blood, and consequently the organ begins to die slowly, cell by cell, until it is placed back into a body environment and connected to a blood supply. Consequently the further away the donor and recipient are away from each other, the greater the chance of the organ becoming damaged due to lack of blood supply and nutrients and dying through hypoxia, and the organ being unable to be used and consequently "wasted".
Therefore many new techniques have been tested to try and preserve the organ on its journey to its new 'home'. Recently American researchers have tried the technique of supercooling. Supercooling reduces the temperature of the organ to around -6C. This slows down the metabolic rate of the cells within the organ (it will use up the nutrients contained within it much more slowly). This was tested on rat livers. The results showed that the rat livers could be preserved in a viable state for up to 3 days, which is a 3 fold increase on the 24 hours which is currently adhered to. The hope is that the experiment will be progressed into trials onto a human liver, which is significantly heavier and larger than the rat liver, which could suggest that the temperature for cooling needs to be lowered accordingly.
The overall outcome desired from this experimental trial is that it could open the doors for the possibility of worldwide organ transplants and donations- between those in different countries. This would greatly increase the number of available organs and donors, but also it will also increase the number of those in need of that crucial organ. In the UK the number of donors is much lower than the number of people who require an organ and consequently a transplant list is drawn up and it works on the basis of those most in need and those closest to the donor will receive the organ.