Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Cargo: Kidney

A futuristic cooler could get organs to those in need.

Organ donation rates are rising in the United States, but they haven’t kept up with demand. More than 50,000 people are awaiting kidney transplants alone, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. One reason for the shortage is the difficulty in transporting donated organs to where they are needed. Because of the primitive way organs like kidneys are currently shipped-in plastic containers filled with ice and suspension fluid-they can remain only viable for about 20 hours.

Enter an experimental container designed by Des Plaines, IL-based Organ Recovery Systems to keep life-giving fluids circulating through donated kidneys even during long-distance trips. The portable device approximates the treatment organs receive at the company’s perfusion centers in Chicago and Baltimore. A kidney “admitted” to one of these centers is attached to a machine that pumps solutions containing various salts, nutrients and medicines through its blood vessels; technicians monitor the fluid flow, pressure, acidity and other factors inside the organ until it’s healthy enough for transplantation. The new transport vessel contains “all the necessary components” for treatment except certain chemical solutions that surgeons must add, says company chief executive officer David Kravitz. Tests on animal organs, he says, show that perfusing a kidney during transportation can keep it viable for up to 48 hours.

Approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected sometime this fall, according to Kravitz, and similar units for the heart, liver and pancreas are in the works. The company’s work has opened up an “opportunity for considerable advances” in organ transplantation, says Stephen Jensik, associate director of renal transplant programs at Rush Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. If Jensik is right and the technology takes hold, more patients than ever before may be receiving a life-saving special delivery.

AI is here. Will you lead or follow? Countdown to EmTech Digital 2019 has begun.

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivered daily

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.