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UNC Charlotte Research Could Help Extend Storage Times For Transplant Donor Organs

More than 118,500 people are currently on the official waiting list for an organ transplant in the U.S., according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. A symposium held in Charlotte on Tuesday addressed possible solutions to the shortage of donated organs. 

A research initiative based at UNC Charlotte is aimed at extending the potential storage time for donated organs such as kidneys and livers, using technologies such as 'deep cold storage.'

"You essentially put it into suspended animation so you don't have the degradation that occurs when you're holding it on ice," says Gloria Elliott, director of the Charlotte Bank's initiative. She says technology using cryogenic temperatures of 100-150 degrees below zero could allow organs to be stored for months instead of hours using current methods. 

Elliott says the cryogenic storage technology could be developed within 5 to 10 years. She adds that the potential cost of using such methods is a concern. 

"You know, transplant is expensive to begin with," says Elliott.  She says researchers are looking for solutions and technologies that won't "double or triple the cost of preservation."