Green tea antioxidant may extend tissue life

C&I Issue 18, 2009

A green tea antioxidant could have the potential to extend the shelf life of certain human tissues stored for transplant. Currently, tissues preserved for transplant, such as skin, can only be stored for a limited time, which leads to waste as tissues have to be thrown away once they have passed their ‘best before’ date. Japanese researchers have discovered that a green tea antioxidant could significantly improve the length of time that both skin tissues and platelets can be stored.

Scientists at Kyoto University and the University of Shiga Prefecture added the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG) to human platelets and rat skin tissues before they underwent standard preservation techniques (Cell Transplantation 2009, 18, 513; 521).

Platelets treated with EGCG were better preserved after six days, compared with controls, and maintained the ability to aggregate and coagulate. International standards on banking platelets currently limits their storage to five days, and in Japan platelets can only be held for three days before they have to be destroyed. ‘EGCG may lead to an inhibition of platelet apoptosis and lower rates of cell death, offering a potentially novel and useful method to prolong platelet storage,’ says Suong-Hyn Hyon, lead author of both studies.

Adding the antioxidant to rat skin tissues prior to cryopreservation extended the lifespan of the tissues by as much as seven weeks to 24 weeks. EGCG was found to help prevent freeze-thaw injuries to the tissues when it was bound to cell membrane lipids and proteins. Hyon says that transplant dysfunction often occurs as a result of oxidation. He theorises that the antioxidant properties of EGCG could help to prevent this damage.

Barry Fuller, professor of surgical sciences and low temperature medicine at University College London, UK, says that this is an interesting study, but it is not a ‘huge leap forward’.

Fuller says that skin is tricky to preserve as the microvascularisation needs to be carefully protected as this enables the patient’s body to integrate with the transplanted tissue. ‘Polyphenols are a very interesting group and adding polyphenols produced some benefit,’ he adds. However, ‘It’s not going to help us freeze livers tomorrow.’ 

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