Researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil have discovered a way to decontaminate organs for transplants through a novel method that uses light to kill viruses and bacteria from a donor.
According to specialists, bio-photon therapy, as it is known, should extend the possibilities of available organs and reduce the complications after surgery.
"Currently, there is no decontamination of organs for transplants, only withdrawal of blood, but microorganisms are still alive, or the organ is rejected, or, if there is no alternative to avoid death, it is placed contaminated," explained Efe coordinator of the group of scientists, Vanderlei Bagnato.
Research began in 2015. From the University of Toronto in Canada, which runs the world's largest lung transplantation program. Canadians were responsible for the clinical part of the project, while the Brazilians were responsible for the development of the technique.
About 1 million dollars were invested, and the Brazilian part, responsible for around 10%, was in the hands of the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp).
The procedure consists primarily in the removal of blood from the organ and through the external tube connected to the blood vessels is replaced by a liquid that keeps it alive.
This fluid is exposed to ultraviolet rays that destroy the cell membranes of microorganisms and their DNA.
"Ultraviolet rays are used outside the organ to not kill their own cells, but viruses and bacteria caught in the liquid," said Bagnato.
On the other hand, as a supplement, substances sensitive to visible and infrared light, which are able to select viruses and bacteria, are placed in the liquid.
Then these light frequencies are applied to the organ, which stimulates substances to oxidize microorganisms and cause damage to viruses such as hepatitis and AIDS.
According to the researcher, the liquid is used more than once, because it is still very expensive, worth $ 1,500 for every liter.
Initial experiments were carried out with pig lungs and then with non-transplanted humans and were finally tested in patients.
For the person responsible for the project in Canada, Marcelo Promont, the results were optimal.
"We've already done ten tests with patients, two of which eliminated the virus, and eight were significantly reduced," Cypel said. Meanwhile, Bagnato said that the bacteria are "completely extinct".
In Canada, a patent is already registered and companies interested in the production of this technique. In Brazil, the goal is to test the program with kidneys and livers, the two most transplanted organs in the South American country.
Scientists believe that in the future they will be able to improve organ use, reduce their costs and wait times, and extend the use of other transplants, such as the heart or pancreas.
"Today it is a transplant of everything, the uterus, the face, but it is very expensive, for example, a lung transplant costs about $ 160,000, Brazil is done several dozen a year, but how many people need it?" Asked Bagnato.
The next step forward, which Bagnato projects have in the future, is decontamination of organs in living people, which could effectively cure diseases.
In 2018, 20,000 transplants were needed in Brazil, adding necessary organs such as kidneys, heart, liver and lungs, but only 8,500 were made. The surgery line is more than 30,000, according to the Brazilian Transplant Association.