New study looks at mending broken hearts

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Mending a broken heart is no easy task but Australian scientists are hopeful they're on track to find a solution.

Researchers have used Valentine's Day, when matters of the heart are at the forefront of people's minds, to outline new research that could lead to more donor hearts being successfully transplanted.

Last year 381 of the organs were available for transplantation, but due to a range of issues, such as damage during transportation, just 81 could be used.

Professor John Fraser, from Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital Critical Care research group, says donor hearts are stored and transported on ice, but they do not receive a constant oxygen supply.

But he's hopeful that's about to change through the help of an experimental Swedish machine donated to the hospital.

The equipment supplies the donor heart with oxygen during storage and transport, while keeping it cold which helps reduce damage to the organ.


"In a country as vast as Australia, time is of the essence," he said.

"Using these innovative techniques hearts can be retrieved from vast distances."

Not only could more hearts be used for transplants, but those organs that are used would perform better, he said.

The technology is also able to reboot hearts previously considered dead.

It's hoped the research leads to a 40 per cent rise in the number of hearts available for transplant.

Researchers, surgeons, engineers and nurses from Prince Charles Hospital, Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney will be involved in research trials which begin on Sunday.


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