Nanotechnology May Help Improve Organ Transplantation Outcomes

A nanoparticle technology created at Duquesne University for oxygen delivery could enable the preservation of organs prior to transplantations, according to a new study from researchers at Duquesne and the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

"One of the issues with transplants involves providing adequate oxygen to preserve tissues until the transplantation can take place," said Dr. Vijay S. Gorantla, associate professor at Wake Forest and a co-author of the study. "This has traditionally been done with the use of whole blood, but has several limitations, including stability, infectious risk and blood shortages."  

The Duquesne nanotechnology, the first to be created using pharmaceutical quality by design standards, uses nanoparticles as oxygen carriers. The goal is to improve the viability and function of organs or transplanted tissues, said Dr. Jelena M. Janjic, associate professor of pharmaceutics at Duquesne and founder and co-director of the university's Chronic Pain Research Consortium.  

"We have developed a stable, cost-effective nanomedicine that can carry oxygen to tissues, replacing the need for whole blood," she said. "It also reduces the post-transplantation chance for infection."  

Janjic, who created the first inflammatory pain nanomedicine that directly targets the pain source, added that nanoparticles also performed well during the ischemic time involving transplantations.  

"Usually, several hours elapse between the donor recovery and transplantation of an organ in the body," Gorantla said. "This means that the tissue must remain healthy until the medical team and patient are ready for the transplantation. The oxygen delivery provided through nanoparticles helps to ensure tissue preservation."  

One of the benefits of the quality by design process is that the nanoparticles can be produced on a large scale, ensuring that supplies are readily available, Janjic said. She and Eric Lambert, a Duquesne pharmacy graduate student, recently published this work in Scientific Reports.  

"Several technologies for oxygen delivery for organ preservation have been attempted over the past several decades," Gorantla said. "This technology is very unique and cutting edge, and has a real chance to help improve patient outcomes."  

In the future, the researchers hope to investigate how the technology may be able to deliver medicine to transplanted organs, such as anti-rejection drugs and immunosuppressive treatments required by patients.  

Janjic, Gorantla and Lambert co-authored a paper on the oxygen delivery nanoparticles in a special issue of the journal Nanomedicine. The research is supported by a grant from the United States Air Force.  

The study exemplifies Duquesne's commitment to extensive research that expands student horizons and benefits society at large.  

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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