Significant Progress Made in the Development of a Warm Blood Transport System for Donor Hearts by Wuhan Union Hospital of China

Originally Posted by: WeChat Official Account “Hubei Extracorporeal Life Support”

On September 13, 2020, the team of Professor Nianguo DONG, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Surgery and Organ Transplantation of Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan (“Wuhan Union Hospital”), and Suzhou magAssist Medical Technology Co., Ltd. (“magAssist”) conducted the animal experiment with the prototype of the donor heart transport system under development. The hearts of two sheep were successfully resuscitated extracorporeally through autologous blood perfusion. With the support of the Key R&D Program of Hubei Province, this will be China’s first proprietary donor heart transport system. This successful experiment symbolizes China’s further breakthrough in cutting-edge heart transplant technologies!

Heart Resuscitation on the Extracorporeal Perfusion Platform

(Left) Wuhan Union Hospital’s Team Conducting Preliminary Repair on the Isolated Heart (Right) Professor Ping LI, Head of R&D, Installing the Isolated Heart and Devices (The Devices are Blurred Out of Technological Confidentiality)

China’s First Isolated Heart Perfusion and Resuscitation Test on Animals Completed! A Photo of Professor Ping LI (Right) and Professor Geng LI (Middle) of Professor Nianguo DONG’s Team in the Cardiovascular Surgery Department of Wuhan Union Hospital and Professor Po-Lin HSU, Founder of magAssist (left), after Heart Resuscitation (The Devices are Blurred Out of Technological Confidentiality) 


There are 330 million patients with cardiovascular diseases in China. As a serious development stage of cardiovascular diseases, heart failure not only has a large number of patients, but also can’t be reversed by existing drugs and traditional instruments, and the incidence of heart failure has shown upward trend. As released by the China International Heart Failure Congress, China has at least 10 million heart failure patients, which have formed the largest population of heart failure patients in the world. Heart transplant remains the currently known golden treatment for end-stage severe heart failure.

In recent years, substantial progress has been made in donation management, surgical techniques, postoperative nursing and other aspects of heart transplant, but cold storage is still adopted for donor hearts. Cold storage will lead to donor heart ischemia, and subsequent reperfusion injury may damage donor heart function, which is a risk factor for early dysfunction of the donor heart and death of the recipient, and greatly limits donor heart storage and transport time. Since there is a limited number of donor hearts, failure of donor hearts due to ischemia during transport is a waste of scarce resources.

The warm blood transport system allows the donor heart to keep the coronary circulation uninterrupted after isolation from the body, and to keep beating in a warm environment close to the physiological state of the human body, so as to minimize the ischemic time of the heart before transplantation. Therefore, this system can keep the heart live in vitro for a long time, which makes it possible to transport the donor heart over a long distance, further realize the sharing of the donor heart across the vast territory of China and even across international regions, and possibly resuscitate the marginal donor heart, so as to expand the donor pool. Additionally, the medical staff can perform real-time screening of various indicators of the donor organ under physiological conditions, without the need for the temperature restoration process, so that a small number of defects in the donor organ can be identified in advance and repaired before transplantation. This practice would make pre-transplant screening a real possibility and could significantly improve long-term survival.

However, the development of a donor heart transport system presents great challenges. At present, the U.S.-incorporated Transmedics is the one and only world’s donor organ transport system provider and its products were put into clinical application not long ago. With the support of the Key R&D Program of Hubei Province, therefore, Professor Nianguo DONG’s team has led the magAssist’s team and tackled problems in key technologies of the system. They will bring the most cutting-edge medical devices to the vast number of patients on the transplant waiting list in China, which is expected to greatly expand the use efficiency of donor hearts and improve the prognosis of transplant patients, creating huge social benefits.

It’s believed that under the leadership of Director Nianguo DONG, Wuhan Union Hospital will work with magAssist to make breakthroughs in the epoch-making clinical technology of extracorporeal donor heart preservation and transport system, develop China’s first domestically made, safer and more effective donor heart transport system, realize real-time testing and screening, early identification and selection of donor organs, and provide patients in urgent need of heart transplant with a true optimized heart.

[Unit Introduction]

Over the past four decades, the Cardiovascular Surgery Department of Wuhan Union Hospital has grown into a cardiovascular surgery diagnosis and treatment center integrating domestically leading medical care, teaching and scientific research. In the past three years, the Department has secured its top five ranking in National Specialized Hospital Departments of Fudan University and maintained its first place in Central China. Among the fruitful academic achievements are several domestically leading and internationally advanced technologies, especially in cardiac surgery, heart transplant, pediatric heart transplant, valve research and development and other key areas of cardiac surgery. Clinically, Wuhan Union Hospital performed over 4,000 cardiac surgery procedures in 2019, including the greatest number of heart transplant procedures nationally. The Department is a National Key Clinical Specialization, one of the first Master’s and Doctoral Degree Awarding Units of the State Council, an undertaking unit of State Program 863 and Program 973 and National Key Research Plan, a National Training Base for Cardiovascular Surgeons, a Chinese Heart Transplant Training Base, a National Regional Medical Center for Cardiovascular Diseases, a Construction Unit for National Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosis and Treatment Ability Improvement Project, and a Central China Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosis and Treatment Center. Over the past ten years, the Department has won such honorary titles as National Advanced Collective of Hygiene System, Nationwide Youth Civilization Collective, National Quality Service Position, National Demonstration Site of Learning-from-Lei Feng Activities and National Workers’ Pioneer Collective.

Founded in 2017, magAssist is headed by Dr. Po-Lin HSU, a special-term professor of Soochow University and an expert of National One Thousand Young Talents Project, composed of domestic and international teams long engaged in artificial heart research and development. On the basis of mechatronics, maglev and computational fluid dynamics and other core platform technologies, magAssist is committed to building a new-generation ECLS platform for severe acute patients. On the basis of full-maglev extracorporeal artificial heart, magAssist has developed ECLS systems for different groups of people, different auxiliary needs and different clinical scenarios like ECMO and minimally invasive interventional artificial heart, and serving cardiovascular patients in China and in the world at large. Within a span of 3 years, magAssist has completed the R&D of maglev extracorporeal artificial heart, the construction of China’s first maglev extracorporeal artificial heart production line and the GLP big animal experiments. Good results have been achieved in the experiments, and the products will be put into clinical trials at the end of this year.

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