Forget the Beer Cooler! Keep Your Still-Pumping Heart in a Box

By Veronique Greenwood | September 1, 2011 12:54 pm

The practice of rush-shipping organs for transplants on ice is fertile ground for slapstick comedy. It’s almost too easy—think of five things that could go wrong! Go!

So next time you have a heart that needs transporting, you might consider joining a clinical study currently underway with this little gadget: a cozy box on wheels that recreates the heart’s natural environment, complete with donated blood and tubes to pump that blood through. The study, which is funded and designed by TransMedics, the company that makes the box, is investigating whether keeping the heart going means it can be transported farther and increase the success of transplants by giving doctors more time to test for immune factors that could cause a rejection. The current system, of course, involves shutting the heart down, partaking in crazed race-against-time hijinks, and then jump-starting it once it’s in the recipient’s chest. The whole process can take no more than six hours, chest to chest, or the heart fails.

How long could a heart survive in a box? Perhaps…forever? That’s an iiiinteresting question…for another, madder group of scientists. In the meantime, if you’re anything like us, reading this has given you an urge to revisit this little number, featuring Justin Timberlake.

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