US doctors bring heart of deceased donor back to life for the first time

Doctors have brought a dead person's heart back to life for the first time in the US.

Doctors at Duke University in North Carolina successfully re-animated the heart of a deceased donor by using an artificial circulatory mechanism that continues to pump blood through the disembodied organ.

Once it was revived, the organ was immediately transplanted into a patient in need of a healthy heart, the New York Post reports.

Experts are hailing the doctors' success as a crucial step in reducing the donor organ shortage.

The cutting-edge practice, warm perfusion, prompts the heart to beat through the circulation of blood, oxygen and electrolytes. 

The incredible procedure was filmed by an attending doctor, Jacob Niall Schroder, who shared the footage on Twitter.

"1st adult DCD [donation after cardiac death] heart in the USA! This is the donor pool actively expanding!" he captioned the video, which shows the heart beating independently of a body. 

Before now, vital organs had to be harvested from a living donor declared medically brain dead.

Due to low oxygen levels, heart tissue typically starts deteriorating before a patient dies. By the time death is confirmed, the heart is already too damaged to reuse.

The method was first implemented in a 2015 trial in the UK at the Royal Papworth Hospital. The facility has since performed a donation after cardiac death for 75 patients, according to Schroder.

"If Royal Papworth's experience [approx 75 patients to date] has shown us anything, this will decrease waitlist time, deaths on the waitlist, with excellent survival results," he explained on Twitter.

Schroder estimates the procedure could broaden the donor pool by "as much as 30 percent".

"This is the first time in the US, which is a huge deal because transplant need and volume is so high, but a few centres around the world, including Papworth, have pioneered this effort,' he told the Daily Mail.

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