Haemair to develop a prototype blood oxygenation device

SMART Cymru is supporting Haemair Ltd to develop a prototype blood oxygenation device for normothermic perfusion of transplant organs.

The average time a patient waits on a kidney transplant waiting list in the UK is typically thirty months. In the US it is over four years. These figures are very likely to increase substantially in view of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, many potential transplant organs are rejected because they appear to be of poor quality.

Business Wales reports the project aims to develop a device for perfusing donated organs with oxygenated blood to maintain their viability ex-vivo. This will allow many previously rejected organs to be salvaged and will also improve the success rate for all transplanted organs.

Haemair are working with leading transplant surgeons to ensure that the device is focused specifically on kidneys to ensure adequate oxygenation without free radical damage that can be caused by over oxygenation. A pulsatile blood pump ensures that the capillaries in the organ remain better perfused over extended periods. This improved perfusion has four benefits:

  • It gives greater time to evaluate organs fully before rejecting organs that are actually perfectly good
  • It allows marginal organs to be resuscitated increasing the organ pool
  • It gives surgeons longer to make the best possible match between organ and patient and to undertake the operation when hospitals are fully functional, rather than as soon as the organ becomes available
  • It enables the quality of organs for transplant to be improved by treatment ex-vivo, therefore promising extended effective life before a re-transplant is needed

The project will result in one new hire immediately, and if successful a further five positions would probably be created. If successful the project has the potential to benefit healthcare in Wales and to enable the NHS to save more lives at reduced cost by enabling transplant organs to be used more effectively.

It would also enable Haemair to attract further investment, for related developments such as an Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) system capable of treating comorbidities commonly associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) arising from Covid-19 and a number of other respiratory conditions. Kidney disease commonly arises in ARDS patients and the enhanced ECLS system should provide renal and respiratory support with a single device.

Swansea based Haemair was founded in 2005 with the objective of developing a portable device to oxygenate blood, and remove carbon dioxide, for patients with limited lung function. The company has developed expertise both in gas transfer to and from blood and in transfer of other species, which may build up or become depleted. They have established extensive instrumentation and test facilities for a range of related devices.

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