Ikerlan-IK4 (CIC microGUNE Microfluidics Unit - the Basque Micro and Nanotechnologies Research Centre) has patented a device that enables the verification of the optimum conditions for a human organ prior to its transplant.
By means of a microelectrode that measures the impedance and temperature of the tissues, the system enables the state of any organ to be monitored from the moment of its extraction, during its transport, to the moment of the surgical operation to transplant it into a patient.
The Ikerlan-IK4 device, designed in collaboration with the National Centre for Microtechnology (CNM-CSIC) and the Carburos Metálicos company and patented in conjunction with I2M Design S.A., uses a polymer substrate that represents a great advance in biomedical instrumentation, as it does not produce injury in the tissues during transport or surgical manoeuvres. It even opens a new way to control organ rejection, given that the microelectrode can remain implanted for a considerable time without causing injury.
The application has a number of prototypes already and has had clinical trials with organs of animals at Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic. Moreover, it is of particular interest for a process as delicate as an organ transplant, as it provides an objective indicator of the evolution of the organ in which, despite the conservation techniques used – whether with special liquids or in cold -, the duration of the viscera is highly limited (12 hours in the case of the kidney, eight for the liver and only four hours in the case of the heart). The device is used incorporated into a small electronic system which gathers and sends data by telemetry to an external system, enabling the verification of the state of the organ at all times.
Due to medical advances, the transplant of organs is an evermore common medical practice. Thanks to the high number of donors in the Basque area, it has one of the highest rates of transplants in the world, with 61 kidney transplants per million inhabitants in 2006; 26.3 liver transplants and 4.7 heart transplants.