3i backed TransMedics Success: Papworth performs the UK's first successful beating human heart transplant

05 Jun 2005

A 58 year old Papworth Hospital patient has become the first person in the UK to receive a beating heart.  The transplant operation was carried out by a team of surgeons at Papworth Hospital on 22nd May.

A new system for organ conservation, TransMedics' Organ Care System, was used for this transplantation.  After removal from the donor, the heart is placed into the Organ Care System, designed to maintain human organs in a functioning state outside the body. The heart is then immediately revived to a beating state, perfused with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood and maintained at the appropriate temperature.  Using the System, organs are kept in their physiological, beating state during transport to the recipient and until implantation.

British Heart Foundation Professor Bruce Rosengard, the UK Principal Investigator for the trial said "We are extremely excited by the possibilities that this Transmedics Organ Care System offers.  This first patient is now seven days post surgery, is back on a normal ward and is doing extremely well.  Papworth is one of only four hospitals in Europe who are taking part in this trial and if the System continues to prove successful, it could significantly increase the number of donor hearts available". (see note 1 below for explanation).

Matching, is so important that donation and allocation of organs needs to be organised nationally. Mr Chris Rudge, Managing and Transplant Director of UK Transplant whose remit is to ensure that donated organs are matched and allocated in a fair and unbiased way said  "UK Transplant welcomes any initiative to improve organ quality and availability for patients. As the Organ Care System evolves in the future it offers great promise not only for patients awaiting heart transplantation but also for those awaiting other donated organs."

Notes to editors

3i first backed TransMedics in 2003 and has actively led the company through its growth and clinical trial success in Germany and now the UK. Andrew Fraser, 3i partner, added "We are delighted with this latest UK successful for TransMedics, which marks the culmination of years of research and development to create a geniunely innovative medical device with the ability to revolutionise the transplant market and patient care in this country."

Note 1
Patients benefit from new conservation method 
Conventional technology keeps organs waiting to be transplanted in a cold, ischemic state (with no blood circulation), which makes it impossible to keep them in a functional state. The retention of the vital organ functions offered by the Organ Care System yields several benefits. Surgeons will now have the opportunity to evaluate the organ immediately prior to transplant and to test it even more extensively for existing diseases. More comprehensive tissue matching may also be possible in the future, which could lead to an optimisation of organ allocation and reduced risk of organ rejection. This new approach is designed to reduce the risk of organ damage during preservation and improve the quality of life for the patient after transplantation.

Finally, the window of time between removal and implantation could be extended with the help of the Organ Care System. This may allow organs to be transported to more distant locations, broadening the number of usable organs as well as the number of potential recipients.

Disadvantages of conventional conservation methods
Cold ischemic storage of organs can lead to substantial organ damage in isolated cases. The faster the organ reaches the patient, the better the chance for a successful transplantation. International data shows that the outcome of heart transplant patients who receive a donor heart four hours after its removal from the donor is significantly worse than those of patients who promptly receive a donor organ. If the time window between removal and implantation is too long, the organ will become unusable. The maximum storage time for a heart is only four to six hours.
 
Note 2
Transplant Unit at Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Papworth Hospital, the world famous heart and lung centre, based in Cambridgeshire, carried out the UK's first successful heart transplant in 1979. The hospital celebrated the 25th anniversary in 2004 with a garden party attended by over 400 transplant patients, their families and staff, including Papworth's longest surviving heart transplant patient who lives in the north of Scotland (now over 25 years since his transplant).

Europe's first successful heart and lung transplant was also performed at Papworth in 1984. and the world's first heart, lung and liver transplant in 1986.

Note 3
Statistics from UK Transplant
More than 8,000 people currently need an organ transplant in the UK but due to a severe shortage of donated organs, fewer than 3,000 operations are carried out each year and around 400 people die every year while waiting for a suitable organ to become available.

There are currently 104 people including 9 children registered for a heart transplant in the UK. A further 43 patients are waiting for a combined heart and lung transplant including 2 children.

Last year (1 April 2005 - 31 March 2006) a total of 146 people received a heart or heart and lung transplant, down from 170 during 2004-05.

The NHS Organ Donor Register holds the details of more than 13.2 million people who have pledged to donate their organs after their death to help others.