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Apr 4, 2013 11:05 AM by Ryan Haarer

UA surgeon hopes to increase donor pool with refurbished organs

TUCSON- To Dr. Zain Khalpey, waste is a dirty word. He and a team of researchers at the University of Arizona have an ambitious goal of regenerating, reconditioning or even creating new organs.

His work is personal. Khalpey's father is one of the many people who died because they couldn't find a lung donor

"There are about 1000 patients dying every year on a lung list waiting for a lung. In the U.S. we throw lungs away because they are marginal. Those lungs can be resuscitated!" said Khalpey.

The cardiothoracic surgeon is essentially improving the quality of poor donated lungs. If a lung is too damaged Dr. Khalpey and his team are working on other methods to revolutionize organ transplant and increase the donor pool.

"Even if the lungs aren't going to be resuscitatable, and you've tried everything you can, designer drugs, we aren't going to throw those lungs away. We are going to decellularize those lungs in a bioreactor and we are going to reseed it with your stem cells which we are already trying to do and we are going to grow you new lungs," he said.

This summer the team will use this method in the expand trial, comparing the survival of donor lungs on a mobile ex vivo machine to the survival of lungs resuscitated outside the box.

The mobile machine is a piece of technology that can begin monitoring and reviving a lung as soon as it leaves the body, cutting down time all the while on the go.

"We need to try and find out what we can do to try and resuscitate those lungs and move it to the next phase which is keeping those lungs on for longer. Transporting and flying lungs to wherever you need them and of the best quality. And it is going to places and people who really need it," said, Khalpey.

Years down the road Dr. Khalpey hopes to create a 3-D image of the lungs and with the help of stem cells, basically print out a replica of a healthy, transplantable organ.

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