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Pioneering device could give transplants a boost

Pioneering device could give transplants a boost Since transplants commenced, organs have been preserved and transported in cold ischemic storage. The organs during this stage are not functioning and at risk of being damaged and becoming unusable. A technology developed at Oxford University, using Maxon Motor brushless DC motors and gearheads, could preserve a functioning liver outside the body for 24 hours which would dramatically increase the numbers of organs available for transplant. About 700 liver transplants are carried out in the UK each year, but more than 100 patients die each year while on the waiting list.

Professor Constantin Coussios (of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering), Professor Peter Friend (Director of the Oxford Transplant Centre) and colleagues have been researching the technology since 1994. In 2008 the spin-out company OrganOx was formed, through the University's technology transfer firm Isis Innovation, in order to commercialise the Oxford research. OrganOx, headed by CEO Dr Les Russell, developed the device that is now being trialled at the liver transplant centre at King's College Hospital.

Maxon Motor UK has been involved in the development since its inception. Each OrganOx system incorporates three Maxon EC-max 22 brushless DC motors with GP22C planetary gearheads with ceramic axles. Maxon's Ian Bell explains: "The motors drive the pumps propelling vital fluids through the liver. A key requirement for the system is reliability with power consumption, size and weight also being a consideration as the device is portable. The system must run continuously and Maxon brushless motors offer tens of thousands of hours running life and the ceramic axle gearbox offers about twice the life of the conventional steel axle.

Many approaches to improving outcomes with cold ischemic storage have been explored to date but none have demonstrated consistent clinical benefits over cold storage. Wayel Jassem, transplant surgeon says: "I was impressed to see how quickly each liver started to function following the transplant. This technology has the potential to be hugely significant and could save lives."

It is too early to draw any firm conclusions as to the benefits of 'warm liver' transplantation and it may be several years before liver specialists can tell whether the technique has proven benefits. Further trials are due to take place at King's College Hospital, the largest liver transplant centre in Europe, and in other European countries.

Maxon has a vast amount of experience in the medical device field with over 55% of Maxon Motor's production devoted to the sector.
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