A new technique is hoped to benefit patients waiting for a lung transplant
Doctors believe a pioneering transplant technique which cleans and reconditions donor lungs could help save the lives of many patients desperately waiting for new organs.
A UK-wide study has been welcomed by patients groups who claim it will bring hope to many with chronic lung disorders.
Only one in five of the potential donor lungs available in the UK is currently used in lung transplants.
The rest are turned down as they are in too poor a condition to safely transplant, the team said.
Almost a third of those currently waiting for a lung transplant at any one time will never be matched with a donor organ and many will die before suitable donor organs are found, the doctors said.
The new technique, called ex-vivo lung perfusion or EVLP, involves cleaning and aerating the donor lungs after they are removed from the donor.
It is being piloted in a small scale study and has already been shown to work in eight patients.
The study, which is coordinated by the DEVELOP-UK team from Newcastle University and Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, will now bring together all the lung transplant centres in England to test the new technique.
Professor Andrew Fisher, who is leading the research team, said: "Unfortunately lungs are an incredibly delicate organ and they are easily damaged by events that happen before their removal from the donor. If we can make more of the donor lungs currently turned down available for transplant that will be a great benefit to many patients whose lives are severely limited by their severe breathing problems.
"We know already from experience in a small numbers of patients that this technique can work, we now need to prove it on a large scale, so that EVLP can be rolled-out across the country as a new technology in lung transplantation."