The 2013 SENS Foundation ConferenceJune 2014
By Ben Best
Cryogenic Preservation Of Transplantable Organs
Stephen Van Sickle (Chief Scientific Officer, Arigos Biomedical, Mountain View, California) is part of a company that is taking a novel approach to preserving transplantable organs. Transplantable hearts, kidneys, pancreases, and livers can be preserved for longer times prior to transplant by replacing blood in the blood vessels with cold gas rather than a cold fluid.65 The cold gas, like the cold fluid, has traditionally been above freezing temperature.
Instead of using a gas with high oxygen content above freezing temperature, Van Sickle’s company has been using helium gas that can cool down to cryogenic temperatures (below -130° Celsius). Although hypothermic cooling can maintain transplantable organs for hours above freezing temperature, cooling to cryogenic temperatures has the potential to preserve organs much longer.
Despite the shortage of transplantable kidneys, nearly a fifth of such kidneys are discarded because at the time of harvest a suitable patient or clinic is not available. Longer preservation times would prevent this waste. Substituting blood with a vitrification (glass-forming) solution that prevents ice formation has allowed for cooling of a rabbit kidney to -130°C with viability restored upon rewarming. However, vitrification and successful revival with the transplant of organs larger than a rabbit kidney has not yet occurred.66
Cooling an organ internally with cold helium gas provides another option. Van Sickle has been able to cool a pig kidney (which is comparable in size to a human kidney) down to -180°C without fracture. Van Sickle believes that perfusing organs with helium gas at higher pressures (20 atmospheres) could allow for cooling rates that are 100 times faster than is possible with current methods. Hopefully, the cooling would be fast enough to prevent damaging the tissues by dehydration from the helium gas. Rewarming the organs with helium gas requires combining the warm helium gas with electrically-induced heat (radio frequency electromagnetic currents).
Punting On The Cam
There were more than 70 speakers at the SENS6 conference, so the above sampling only gives a taste of the full program. On the final day of SENS6, the participants had an opportunity to go “punting on the Cam.” This is not a form of football. Punting means using a large pole to propel a boat on the Cambridge River. Many scientific discussions about the conference happen on the boats.
The SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation conference in Cambridge, England, attracts some of the world’s top scientists devoted to human rejuvenation—and this year was no exception.
Dr. George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, identified several genes he believes contribute to health and longevity, including one that delays Alzheimer’s disease by 10 years. He is hopeful gene therapy can be used to make these genes available to everyone.
Dr. Luigi Fontana of the Longevity Research Program in Missouri is investigating how calorie restrictions promote a longer life and improve health, while Dr. Sam Parnia (Professor of Medicine and Director of CPR Research at State University of New York) discussed how CPR methods are all too often not done properly in hospitals and how lives can be saved if they were.
Tissue regeneration was Dr. Malcolm Maden’s topic. He is studying the Mexican salamander, which has the ability to regenerate every organ in its body. Dr. Maden has shown that applying retinoic acid to the spinal cord of rodents causes nerve fibers to regrow. He hopes studying the regeneration of the salamanders will lead to tissue regeneration in humans.
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