A shortage of donor lungs results in the death of 20 percent of lung transplant candidates.

A team of Philadelphia doctors is hopeful a new technique will increase the number of viable lungs for patients awaiting a new lease on life.

Not all donor lungs are suitable for transplant surgery due to physical damage they incur or the presence of bacteria. So what if surgeons could repair these lungs -- recondition them, if you will?

This month, Dr. Edward Cantu and his transplant team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania successfully performed the first "ex vivo lung perfusion" transplantation in this region.

They took a donated lung that would have been unusable and placed it in a sterile plastic dome attached to a ventilator, tubes, and filters. It was then pumped with a solution of nutrients, proteins, and oxygen.

"So the lung is being treated as if it were in the body but without any of the toxins that were in the body at the time of death. We have about four hours to assess how well the lung is going to function," said Cantu.

The EVLP technique is being used in Europe and Canada. Here in the U.S., it's only being done as part of a clinical trial taking place at six sites.

The recipient of the reconditioned lung is a 66-year-old man from the Philadelphia suburbs who suffered from emphysema.

Hospital officials says he's home, mobile, and breathing comfortably.