MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Last week, a new lung transplant procedure was performed at the University of Minnesota, and for the first time in the Midwest.

The new technology keeps the lungs warm and breathing from the time they leave the donor. Common practice has been to keep the organs on ice before transplant.

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We spoke with the doctor who performed the new procedure, using the Tans Medics Organ Care System.

“It’s almost like landing on Mars,” Dr. Gabriel Loor said.

On Nov. 13, a 50-year-old man received two transplanted lungs. And those organs were never put on ice for the two hours they were outside a human body.

The lungs were kept sterile, perfused with blood, and breathing inside the portable machine.

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“Before this, we relied on ice, so we’d bring a cooler out to a donor hospital, and after the procurement, we would place the lungs on ice,” Loor said.

But lungs inside the new machine are warm and functioning before the transplant surgery, so they are ready to work immediately for the recipient. Think of a warmed-up car on a cold winter morning.

“Everyone is telling me that I’m ahead of where I would normally be, and I think that is all due to this machine,” the patient said.

The Tans Medics Organ Care System monitors the condition of the lungs inside of it, giving doctors about 20 points of data continuously.

“And in this device, we’re able to bring it to the recipient, really on jet, on airplane, on ground transportation, any mechanism we need to make sure the recipient gets those lungs, and time is really not so much of an issue,” Loor said.

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This breathing lung device has previously been used in Europe, California and Pennsylvania. Doctors at the U of M say they are glad to now have it here.