UVa researchers: Drug could aid transplant lungs

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A team of researchers at the University of Virginia believe a new drug can help preserve lungs headed from donors to transplant recipients.

Microbiologist Victor Laubach says once a donor dies, doctors typically have between six and eight hours to perform the transplant. But many of the lungs expire before then.

“If there’s someone waiting for a lung in Miami but the only lung that matches them is in Seattle, Wash., right now that’s too far away,” Laubach said. “A lot of patients die because they don’t find a suitable donor.”

Researchers hope to use the drug in combination with existing technology to preserve lungs for up to 24 hours. That means doctors could conceivably get lungs to people on the transplant list in any part of the country.

His partner, Dr. Irving L. Kron, is a little more conservative. But he told The Daily Progress (http://bit.ly/1jIx9wx) that the drug, based on an anti-inflammatory medication called Adenosine, could have a wide-ranging impact on the medical field.

“All the surgeries we do are complicated by inflammation,” Kron said. “If this thing is proved safe, I could see it being used far beyond our little field.”

The project has received a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Current technology, using a machine called Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion, allows doctors to keep lungs alive for a few hours by pumping oxygen into them. Kron and Laubach said they believe that by using a modified version of Adenosine, they can widen that window, and even reverse some of the damage incurred by lungs after the donor’s body shuts down.

The team is working on an application for Food and Drug Administration testing, but they’re confident about the drug’s chances. They have been testing this use of Adenosine in animals for almost 10 years.

Even if the drug is approved by the FDA, which is several years away, transplants would still be a complicated and delicate procedure, researchers said.

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Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com

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