The technology, called normothermic machine perfusion, enables donor organs to be pumped with blood and oxygen at normal body temperatures, instead of being maintained in the more common way, in cold storage with ice. The impetus for this gift is to support the research of Leona Kim-Schluger, MD, Associate Director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute. The first installment of the gift will go toward establishing a vital international organ registry, to provide a framework for advancing perfusion efforts, including the use of artificial intelligence to better understand and predict organ viability and quality. These efforts will be in collaboration with Annetine Gelijns, PhD, JD, Chair of Health Science and Policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Approximately 13,000 patients are on the liver transplant list in the United States, and 8 to 9 percent of those patients will die each year while waiting on the list. The potential for machine perfusion devices to help improve organ viability and longevity will directly increase the number of patients who can receive successful transplants. Mount Sinai has utilized normothermic machine perfusion technology to pump more than 100 livers for transplant in the last year—far ahead of other institutions in the New York area—and continues to move the needle in utilizing organ perfusion machines, both clinically and scientifically, to tackle the organ shortage crisis head-on.
“Machine preservation of organs is a potentially seismic change in the field of transplantation. The perfusion platform has the potential to dramatically increase patient access to life-saving organ transplantation. Not only might we be able to resuscitate suboptimal donor organs, but we can potentially re-engineer them in the future,” said Dr. Kim-Schluger.
Mount Sinai’s transplant team has already used this technology to make transplantation a reality for patients who may not have had access to this life-saving therapy. Dr. Kim-Schluger’s patient Eduardo Iñigo Elias, a 63-year-old world-renowned ornithologist from Ithaca, New York, had been living with severe liver cirrhosis and on the transplant list for many years when he received the call that a potential liver had become available in July 2022.
Unfortunately, the donor liver’s fat content compromised its viability for transplantation. Dr. Kim-Schluger and surgeons Zeeshan Akhtar, MBBCh, and Joseph DiNorcia, MD, however, identified the opportunity to use the perfusion device to optimize the liver’s function for transplantation. The transplant was a success, making Eduardo the first Mount Sinai patient outside of a clinical trial to receive a liver transplant using an FDA-approved perfusion device, with a liver that would otherwise have been discarded. Today, Eduardo is enjoying his new lease on life and has returned to his everyday activities, including his work in bird conservation.
The Blavatnik Family Foundation’s gift will also allow collaborations with other leading scientists at Mount Sinai to further explore additional opportunities for organ machine perfusion in cancer research. Dr. Kim-Schluger and her team will collaborate with Miriam Merad, MD, Director of the Marc and Jennifer Lipschultz Precision Immunology Institute and Chair of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the Icahn Mount Sinai. The ability to remove, then preserve human tumors so they can be observed at length is a potentially revolutionary advance for the study of cancer, drug delivery, and therapeutics and an exciting, novel application of organ machine perfusion, Dr. Kim-Schluger said.
“We are very grateful to the Blavatnik Family Foundation and their continued immense support to Mount Sinai and for honoring Dr. Kim-Schluger” said Sander Florman, MD, Director of the Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute. “This gift will transform our ability to improve and prolong organ viability to provide more organs for more people and will also advance the science of machine preservation.”
“The Blavatnik Family Foundation is proud to provide its continuing support to Dr. Kim-Schluger and her dedicated Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute colleagues. Their extraordinary care and research simultaneously saves lives and advances science for the benefit of future generations,” said a spokesperson for the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
About the Mount Sinai Health System
Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it. Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,400 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report‘s® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2023-2024.
About the Blavatnik Family Foundation
The Blavatnik Family Foundation provides many of the world’s best researchers, scientists, and future leaders with the support and funding needed to solve humankind’s greatest challenges. Led by Sir Leonard Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, the Foundation advances and promotes innovation, discovery, and creativity to benefit the whole of society. Over the past decade, the Foundation has contributed more than US$1 billion to more than 250 organizations.