Former seizure medicine shows promise for improving donor organ preservation

Cooler labeled human organ for transplant. Heart shown in front of cooler.

Valproic acid, a compound once used to treat seizures, shows promise for extending the shelf life and improving the function of stored donor hearts intended for transplantation, according to an NIH-funded study.   

The demand for donor hearts for transplantation far exceeds the supply. Of those that are preserved, their average storage life is only about four hours, after which they become less unusable.  Researchers have been trying for years to find ways to extend the shelf life of donor hearts and other organs in an effort boost the organ supply and save lives.  
In the lab study, researchers found that the former anti-seizure medication valproic acid helps reprogram stored donor hearts in a way that boosts production of a beneficial enzyme. That enzyme both increases the amount of time that donor hearts can be stored and transported as well as improves their function after they are transplanted. Their findings were shown in mouse, pig, and human hearts. 

The study, funded in part by NHLBI, appeared in Science Translational Medicine