Air France transatlantic jet carries lifesaving donor heart on pioneering flight - Istanbul Airport Meet and Assist

In a world first for the aviation and medical worlds, a donor heart has been transported on a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, a feat that would have been unimaginable without the work of organ transplant company XVIVO.

Using XVIVO’s Heart Assist Transport, the heart of a deceased 48-year-old-man in French West Indies was safely flown to Paris in the cabin of an Air France commercial aircraft, despite facing severe turbulence on the flight.

According to The Lancet, a successful transplantation was carried out on a 70-year-old patient in terminal condition at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Sorbonne University in Paris in January 2024.

XVIVO’s patented heart technology, a perfusion device with a proprietary solution, allowed the donated heart to be pumped with oxygenated fluid during transport for more than 12 hours outside a human body.

Between the French West Indies and France, the donor heart traveled 3,659 nautical miles, but due to XVIVO’s incredible technology the organ immediately regained normal function after transplantation.

It is not unusual for donor hearts to be transported in private jets, but with the evolution of technology it will now be possible to use less costly commercial flights, making organ transplants more easily accessible.

According to XVIVO, at present patients in the French West Indies with terminal heart disease would need to travel to Paris for a transplant procedure.

The transplantation is the first within the investigator-Initiated Study ‘PEGASE’, conducted by the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital.

The trial aims to investigate the feasibility and safety of donor heart preservation during extended transport times using hypothermic, oxygenated perfusion (HOPE).

“Monumental breakthrough in heart transplantation”

Professor Guillaume Lebreton, Principal investigator of the PEGASE trial and transplant surgeon at Hôspital Pitié-Salpêtrière, said: “This transplant may be a monumental breakthrough in heart transplantation allowing for increased access to unused donor hearts, that now can be utilized and safely transported across vast distances. Additionally, it suggests a reorganization of transplant procedures, allowing for better scheduling and expert-led surgeries. These changes might improve overall outcomes and redefine the approach to cardiac transplant care.”

Lebreton added: “It is striking that the donor heart, after more than 12 hours outside of the body, was still soft and viable. This in contrast to donor hearts transported on ice that already after a couple of hours may be stiff, slow to start and require mechanical circulatory support after the transplant.”

When the achievement was first reported in February 2024, XVIVO confirmed that the 70-year-old patient had recovered well and was now back at home.

“The success achieved in this instance, where distance and transport time are no longer limiting factors, demonstrates that this technology has the potential to change the paradigm of heart preservation. XVIVO has now taken another significant step toward realizing our vision that ‘nobody should die waiting for a new organ’,” Christoffer Rosenblad, CEO of XVIVO, said.

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