Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation Participates in Research to Expand Availability of Donor Heart Transplants Through Use of New Technology

Aug 5, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.  The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) announced today it is enrolling patients as a clinical site for a study that may expand availability of hearts for transplant using an investigational Organ Care System (OCS™) manufactured by TransMedics. In a new clinical study, MHIF researchers will be using the OCS system to resuscitate a heart that has stopped beating by circulating oxygenated blood through it to prevent organ damage. This allows for the use of a heart from a donor whose heart has stopped beating, or donation after circulatory death (DCD). 

“We are honored to have the opportunity to contribute to research that can give patients a second chance at life with a heart transplant,” said Dr. Karol Mudy, cardiothoracic surgeon and MHIF researcher who serves as principal investigator for the new clinical trial. “This technology has the potential to significantly increase the availability of hearts for transplant, which has been a complex and critical issue for so many patients each year.”

Traditional heart donations come from a donor who is declared brain dead but remains on life support, which provides continuous circulation necessary to ensure organs do not deteriorate. While patients eligible to become DCD donors have no chance for recovery, they have not met the threshold for brain death and therefore their organs have not traditionally been considered viable for transplant.

The number of donor hearts available each year is critically limited, while there remains thousands of patients on the heart transplant list each year. This new technology holds promise to address an unmet need, and potentially years of additional life, for so many more patients. MHIF is one of only eight sites with a depth of experience in this area of research.

“We are proud to be the only non-university based medical center participating in this important trial,” said Peter Eckman, MD, MHIF researcher and Heart Failure section head, Minneapolis Heart Institute®. “Our team has been involved in many studies in this area with the hope that we can contribute to addressing a critical and life-saving option for patients who have no other options.”

“This advanced research requires complex collaboration between our team of surgeons, perfusionists, research coordinators, and Life Source (the organ procurement organization) in order to be successful,” said Bassam Shukrallah, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and MHIF researcher. “Research into technology that has the potential to increase the accessibility of hearts for more patients is a life-saving wish for many patients.”

This is the second clinical study that MHIF is participating in to evaluate the OCS Heart system. Last year, MHIF successfully completed enrollment as one of only eight sites utilizing the system to preserve donor hearts by keeping them beating during transport. That research was evaluating the ability to expand the window of time to transport a donor heart, allowing it to be considered for patients in a much larger distance than was possible with traditional transport of hearts in a cooler.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, as of late September 2019, there were nearly 3,700 candidates on the waiting list (https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/data/) for a heart transplant.

The OCS™ Heart system acts as a miniature intensive care unit that keeps organs alive and healthy by preserving them in a natural state that mimics the human body, so that organs can remain viable for transplant along the way to recipients.


About Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation®

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, it is dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

Scientific Innovation and Research – MHIF is a recognized leader across all specialties of heart and vascular research. Each year, MHIF leads more than 200 research studies with more than 2,200 patients and publishes more than 200 articles to share learnings from research. MHIF research has improved the standard of care for patients around the world, including through the development of protocols like Level One, which continues to significantly improve outcomes and survival for heart attack patients.

Education and Outreach – MHIF provides more than 10,000 hours of education each year putting its research into practice to improve outcomes among health care providers. This commitment extends to patients and caregivers through a number of community health and education events to raise awareness of heart care and research, engaging individuals in their own health.

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s work is funded by generous donors and sponsors and engages in cutting-edge research initiatives with its physician partners from the Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and at 38 community sites across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. For more information, please visit mplsheart.org.

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The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF) strives to create a world without heart and vascular disease. To achieve this bold vision, we are dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health of individuals and communities through innovative research and education.

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