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Doctors research ways to make more hearts available for transplantation

April 17, 2019

Dr. Marian Urban is a cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

He completed previous research with post-transplant patients to study antibodies in organ and tissue recipients.

His current research on hearts is twofold — he works with Dr. John Um of Nebraska Medicine to study functioning hearts that have been refused by transplant centers, and his own separate research project will soon study hearts that become dysfunctional once a patient is declared brain dead.

Whenever a patient is declared brain dead, there may be some changes in heart performance and function. This can sometimes be reversed within 48 hours, allowing the heart to be transplanted.

Sometimes, the heart does not recover and is unable to be transplanted.

Dr. Urban’s eventual goal, he said, is to “learn what makes those hearts dysfunctional if they were perfectly functioning before brain death.”

With the knowledge regarding what makes those hearts dysfunctional, the hope is that doctors could intervene in future cases to then heal and optimize failed hearts, which would allow them to be used for transplantation in recipients.

Dr. Urban’s research takes place at Nebraska Medicine, and he says he would be unable to conduct this research without Live On Nebraska. Live On Nebraska is the only source available for him to obtain hearts for research.

His research will last two years, and he hopes to receive five hearts per year to conduct this research study. He will then compare the hearts obtained from brain dead patients to those studied by him and Dr. Um.

This is part five of an eight-part series outlining the ways organ and tissue donors from Nebraska benefit many through research projects. Look for next week’s contribution discussing the second project that gives insight into pancreatic cancer.

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