The Italian Almanac


Italian Science - January 28

Italy has made a major step forward in organ transplants by showing that elderly donors can be used much more than in the past. In a three-year study at three medical centres in northern Italy, researchers from Bergamo used new techniques to analyse tissue from donors over the age of 60. This allowed them to carefully select 'old' organs and use them for transplants. The researchers then compared the results to transplants from people under 60, finding no major differences.

The study focused on kidneys but its results should be applicable to other organs, researchers said. The new technique involves slicing off a few milligrammes of the kidney and subjecting it to a range of analyses that are more finely tuned than in the past. The tests can be carried out in just eight hours, well within the 20-hour limit beyond which organs end their shelf life, researchers stressed.

Doctors will now be able to tell whether organs from the over-60s can be used or should be discarded, explained Bergamo University transplant unit chief Giuseppe Remizzi. "We can now tell whether the kidney is in good shape or has deteriorated to the point that it is no good for transplanting," Remizzi said.

Remizzi also works at the prestigious Mario Negri Institute in the northern city. Institute Director Silvio Garattini called the results "revolutionary." "These findings are much better than might have been expected," Garattini said. The study was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.