Canadian researchers make breakthrough in vaccine and organ transportation
LONDON, ONT -- A research team out of Western University in London, Ont. has created a reusable, portable, hot and cold storage system that is far more advanced than the foam cooler in your garage, and has far more important uses.
The breakthrough, could impact food storage, but much more importantly, organ transplantation and the transportation of vaccines.
At present, both of the latter are still moved about using ice packs and coolers, with no temperature control.
Meeting with CTV News on Monday, the researchers agreed the new technology is something most of us might have thought was long ago developed.
“You are one-hundred percent correct, and I think sometimes, the obvious things, we overlook”, says Dr. Alp Sener a medical collaborator on the project, who also serves as a director of the Kidney Transplant Fellowship Program.
Sener, along with Karman Siddiqui, a professor of mechanical engineering, and Steven Jevnikar, his former graduate student created the new portable temperature-regulating device.
From the outside, the third prototype of its kind looks similar to a cooler with what appears to be two thermoses at the front.
At core function, the description is not far off, but the technology behind it is much more advanced.
Jevnikar say its ability is keeping a precise temperature without a power source is key.
“So the control system itself, is battery powered right now. We don’t want something that you can plug into a wall, and you have to worry about that.”
While long-term applications could include the storage of high-end foods and drinks, it is hoped the ‘box’ will first be used to aid in organ and vaccine transportation.
Siddiqui says that could include a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The ‘box’ was conceived prior to the pandemic, but with the global hope that a vaccine will soon need to be transported, Siddiqui says its purpose has grown.
He believes the device could dramatically reduce vaccine spoilage.
“Vaccines need to be precisely stored in a certain temperature range. And if the temperature exceeds on either side, whether it gets warmer, or colder then it could impact the viability of the vaccine”.
Temperature change is even more vital, when it comes to organ transplantation.
Dr. Sener says the process, and viability, of getting a donor organ to transplant recipient is greatly increased.
“Our device allows you to modify along the way,” he contends, pointing to the ability to change the temperature remotely.
Using a phone app, the various areas of the ‘box’ can be monitored, and the temperatures adjusted.
Dr. Sener says that ability not only improves on the viability of the donor organs, but also, expected changes in medical science.
At present, donated organs are kept at 4 degrees celsiusb but Sener believes that concept is changing, and the delivery box will be at the forefront.
“In the near future we find out that transporting a liver may be better at minus 6, but a kidney may be better stored at 21 degrees.”
The team of researchers says the technology is nearly ready-to-go once a partner is found.
Depending on the use, and size need, the team expects the units to one day sell for as little as “hundreds of dollars”, adding again, that the box will be reusable.