© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Organ Chamber From UTSA To Help Preserve Soldiers' Lost Limbs

Researchers in San Antonio are working together on a device that will improve soldiers' chances of having an arm or leg successfully reattached if it is lost in combat.

3D printers in a lab at the University of Texas at San Antonio are printing out tiny parts for a cup. Mechanical engineering professor Lyle Hood said this device is designed to hold a severed finger. It will keep the finger healthy while doctors move a patient to a place where they can reattach it.

A 3D printed cup designed to hold a severed finger.
Credit Milady Nazir | University of Texas at San Antonio
A 3D printed cup designed to hold a severed finger.

"So the organ containing chamber is going to have a fluid in it that's going to keep whatever organ we're maintaining buoyant. It's just going to sit in space. Not fall, not rise, and be kept hydrated,” he said. “During that time also, from the second chamber, we're going to be pumping blood substitute throughout the organ to maintain its oxygenation and health."

This device is called ULiSSES, it's designed to keep organs and limbs healthy for at least 24 hours. That's a lot longer than a standard beverage cooler can keep organs and limbs healthy, which wouldn't just help soldiers on the battlefield. Hood says it would also be a game-changer for civilians awaiting organ transplant.

"Instead of them having to be within a one-hour driving radius perhaps now we can go out to three or four hours as the ULiSSES system is going to maintain the organ for three to five times longer than the current technologies," he said.

Healthier organs will mean fewer rejections, and being able to keep organs healthy for longer will improve the supply. According to Donate Life Texas, more than 20 people die in the United States every day due to the lack of available organs for transplant.

But the primary focus, at least for now, is combat injuries. The Department of Defense is funding this research, and UT Health and Brooke Army Medical Center also have people working on this project.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie.