It goes without saying that the greater the number of organs available for transplant, the better for patients in need of them. A newly-developed technique could help, as it uses light to kill viruses and bacteria that might otherwise make donated organs unsuitable for use.
The process begins with a perfusion procedure developed by thoracic surgeon Marcelo Cypel, at the University of Toronto. That procedure involves replacing the blood in donated lungs with a non-toxic liquid preservative, and while it does indeed reduce viral and bacterial populations, it doesn’t eliminate them. This means that recipients of the treated organs still have to be on antibiotic and antiviral medications for three months after the transplant takes place.
Cypel wondered if light could be used to further kill off harmful microbes in those lungs, as ultraviolet light already used to do so in donated blood. To that end, he teamed up with Prof. Vanderlei Bagnato of Brazil’s University of São Paulo. Bagnato and his team proceeded to create a machine that does the job, utilizing what’s known as biphotonic therapy.