Christopher Livia, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at Mayo Medical School, uses the Langendorff apparatus to investigate methods to preserve organs for transplantation.
Currently, patients who need heart transplants require a variety of medical and mechanical supports. To delay — and, ultimately, avoid — the need for transplantation, researchers in the Mayo Clinic Van Cleve Cardiac Regenerative Medicine Program are developing methods to reconstruct heart tissue by combining stem cell biology, material science and 3-D printing technology.
Investigators in the program are actively pursuing tissue engineering therapy projects in various stages of discovery, translation and application. Research projects include:
- Langendorff cardioplegia-mediated cardiac survival. The Langendorff device allows scientists to test cardiovascular therapies on hearts while operating outside the body. Mayo Clinic researchers are using the device to test new ways to preserve donor hearts for transplant. The goal is to increase the number of healthy hearts available to patients awaiting transplants.
- Heart transplant from deceased donors. One of the great drawbacks of heart transplant is that there aren't enough available organs. In 2014, surgeons performed more than 2,600 heart transplants, but thousands more people needed new hearts, and demand increases every year. Mayo Clinic researchers are seeking to make more organs available for transplant by using organs from donors who have died because of cardiac death, which currently disqualifies the organ. Researchers in the Mayo Clinic Van Cleve Cardiac Regenerative Medicine Program are developing new formulations that stabilize and preserve heart tissue, making these organs indistinguishable from conventionally sourced hearts for transplantation.