Machines ‘keep human liver alive for a week outside the body’

Laverne Higgins
January 15, 2020

Currently, donor livers are preserved by first flushing the organ with a cold solution before storing it on ice, which reduced metabolic activity, allowing safe storage for up to 18 hours. The next step will be to use these organs for transplantation. Researchers have added that the machine mimics the physiological perfusion system of the body. Injured cadaveric livers, initially not suitable for use in transplantation, may regain full function while perfused in the new machine for several days.

Commenting on the researche, Pamela Healy, Chief Executive at The British Liver Trust: "Sadly, there continues to be a shortage of livers viable for transplant and hundreds of people die each year while on the waiting list".

In keeping with the learn about, six of the 10 perfused poor-quality human livers, declined for transplantation in Europe, recovered to complete serve as inside of one week of perfusion at the gadget.

The human liver is hooked to tubes in the machine that pumps oxygen-filled blood through it, as well as remove old blood from it.

When the project began five years ago, a liver could only be kept on the machine for 12 hours. The new study was published today in the latest issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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The development of the machine involved researchers from University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, Wyss Zurich and the University of Zurich. With the added time ex vivo, the scientists could fix the damaged livers, clearing them of fat deposits and facilitating tissue regeneration, for example. Liver as an organ is capable of regeneration.

That said, the livers lost weight during the seven days, dropping to around 25 per cent of their original mass.

The researchers say the system could also offer new approaches to tackling a range of diseases.

The Liver4Life project was developed under the umbrella of Wyss Zurich institute, which brought together the highly specialized technical know-how and biomedical knowledge of experts from the University Hospital Zurich (USZ), ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich (UZH). Prof. Philipp Rudolf von Rohr, Professor of Process Engineering at ETH Zurich and co-leader of the project said, "The biggest challenge in the initial phase of our project was to find a common language that would allow communication between the clinicians and engineers". It also seems to help improve the quality of the livers. Algorithms work in the background to adjust the amounts; the "perfusion machine is fully automated obviating the need for constant presence of personnel", according to the study. These livers now maintained cell energy or ATP and also showed an intact structure and anatomy of the liver. Additionally, a majority of the livers presented bile production, which is one of the "most convincing indicators of liver viability after transplantation".

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