In 2018, over 150 000 patients were registered on organ waiting lists in Europe. Although 41 000 patients received a transplant, 48 000 new patients were registered on waiting lists that year. This is the equivalent of nearly six new patients on organ waiting lists every hour. Demand for organ transplantation is increasing all over the world, but there are not enough organs available to meet the need. This shortage is now the limiting factor in treating many patients with chronic organ failure and has led to high numbers of patients on waiting lists. But while so many people are desperate for a transplant, a great many organs are wasted. According to the Human Rights Channel, only 10 % of people on the waiting list received an organ, and 18 people on waiting lists died every day across Europe in 2018.
The challenge of getting organs from donors to recipients
One key problem is the window of opportunity between procurement and implant. Preservation techniques have improved, but the necessity of getting most types of organs from donor to patient within 24 hours means, all too often, time runs out. With the number of donated organs far fewer than needed, the loss of any has devastating consequences. The ELAPHARMA project, hosted by ElaPharma Ltd has come up with a new solution which, in the future, might help to preserve organs for longer. “We have addressed a fundamental challenge in the field of organ transplantation: extending the period during which an organ can be kept alive after its removal, by preventing cellular injury through inhibition of necrotic cell death,” explains Roi Paul Nathan, project coordinator and CEO of ElaPharma Ltd, based in Israel. “The cellular viability of organs flushed with ElaPharma’s innovation is much higher. This equates to better patient outcomes after transplantation,” says Nathan.
Interrupting the pathways that lead to necrosis
The company has been involved in the development of anti-necrosis technology for the last 4 years. Necrosis consists of a cascade of cellular and molecular events that ultimately leads to cell death of major human organs. Nathan explains: “ElaPharma’s unique technology is nothing less than a paradigm shift. Current solutions are working to slow down extracorporeal ischaemic and hypoxic damage. Our novel technology is addressing the cellular necrosis pathway. We target the cellular injury that leads to cell death and organ failure using molecules that inhibit necrosis.” The team has spent 15 years identifying the key proteolytic enzymes involved in the necrosis process. To do so, they used various biochemical approaches, enzymatic assays and siRNA library screening. They found molecules that selectively inhibit the enzyme activation so delaying cell death. The team went on to identify optimal candidates for therapeutic purposes. ElaPharma further checked the active molecules, in in vivo models, for acute myocardial infarction. “Based on the positive results obtained for necrosis inhibition, we have developed new series of molecules and tested them for preservation capabilities using different methods. The most active molecule was chosen for further development of the organ preservation solution.” The project is now pursuing ways in which their process can be used in clinical environments.
ELAPHARMA, transplant, donor, organ transplantation, preservation