World first: lungs transported by drone for transplantation (photos)
Sylvie Claire / October 22, 2021
At the end of September, a Canadian surgeon did what had never been done: transplant a lung that had been transported a few minutes earlier by drone between two hospitals in downtown Toronto.
We proved -and it is a very important point- that it is possible to do it without danger, congratulates with the AFP Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, who collaborated with a technical team during two years to realize this flight.
In the middle of the night, the drone flew 1.2 kilometers in a little less than ten minutes in the sky of the Canadian metropolis, taking off from the Toronto Western Hospital and landing on the roof of the general hospital. The lungs were then successfully transplanted into a 60-year-old patient with pulmonary fibrosis.
The drone transport was done via a refrigerated container that maintains the thermal parameters of the organ so that it is viable for transplantation.
I think drone technologies have a huge potential to become a standard in terms of healthcare, says Mikaël Cardinal, vice president at Unither Bioelectronics, the biotech company that conducted the flight. Unither Bioelectronics, a subsidiary of the American company United Therapeutics, is based in Quebec.
The device has traversed the urban and complex environment of downtown Toronto in an automated fashion, with human supervision.
The challenge now is to adapt this technology to make it accessible to patients around the world, says Dr. Keshavjee, a lung transplant specialist, who points out that the lung is the most fragile of all organs to be stored and transported.
Time is the most critical constraint for organ transport. The experiment shows that drone delivery technology, which is already operational for packages purchased online in some countries, could actually be used to improve the current organ transport system and reduce the cost.
In April 2019, a drone had performed a similar flight delivering a kidney to a hospital in Maryland, USA.