‘The Future of Medicine’: Damaged liver is treated and kept on hold before transplantation | UK News

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A damaged human liver was treated and preserved in a machine for three days before being successfully transplanted into a patient in a world-first operation, researchers have revealed.

The affected man quickly regained his quality of life with no evidence of liver damage or rejection – and remains healthy a year after surgery.

Researchers have said this development could save lives as the technology could increase the number of livers available for transplant and allow surgeries to be scheduled days in advance.

The man who was operated on was a cancer patient on the Swiss transplant waiting list who had the choice of using a treated human liver.

After his consent, the organ was transplanted in May 2021 and he was able to leave the hospital a few days later.

He said: “I am very grateful for the life-saving organ. Because of my rapidly progressing tumor, I had little chance of getting a wait-listed liver in a reasonable amount of time.”

This is because there is an increasing gap between the demand for liver transplants and the number of organs available.

And since the clinical practice is to keep donor livers on ice for no more than about 12 hours prior to transplantation, the number of organs that can be matched to transplant recipients is limited.

Picture:
Professors Pierre-Alain Clavien and the patient leave the hospital

“The Future of Medicine”

The human liver in this case was preserved at Zurich University Hospital using a machine that performs a technique known as normothermic ex situ perfusion.

The organ is supplied with a blood substitute at normal body temperature outside the body.

The machine copies the human body as closely as possible to create ideal conditions for the human liver.

Professor Pierre-Alain Clavien and his colleagues from the hospital’s Department of Visceral Surgery and Transplantation machine-prepared the liver with various drugs, making it suitable for transplantation even though it was not originally approved for the procedure.

The liver was transplanted to the patient, who had several serious medical conditions, including end-stage liver disease and liver cancer.

Prof Clavien said: “Our therapy shows that by treating livers in the perfusion machine it is possible to alleviate the lack of functioning human organs and save lives.”

Mark Tibbitt, Professor of Macromolecular Engineering at ETH Zurich, described it as “the future of medicine”.

“In this way, we can use new findings even faster to treat patients,” he added.

The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.



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