A successful rejuvenation treatment on a liver poised to revolutionize transplants

A successful rejuvenation treatment on a liver poised to revolutionize transplants

THE ESSENTIAL

  • The liver is an organ that is part of the digestive system.
  • It filters and renews the blood.

It is a world first. A multidisciplinary research team from Zurich has successfully treated an initially damaged human liver in a machine for three days outside the body, then implanted the recovered organ into a cancer patient. “A year later, the patient is doing well,” welcome the authors of the study in a press release.

The patient was able to leave the hospital a few days after the transplant: “I am very grateful for this organ which saved my life. Due to the rapid progression of my tumor, I had little chance of getting a liver on the waiting list in a reasonable time”, did he declare.

infusion machine

The research team owes this success to its “infusion machine”, developed in-house, which makes it possible to implant a human organ in a patient after a three-day storage period outside the body. “The machine imitates the human body as closely as possible, in order to provide ideal conditions for human livers”explain the scientists. “A pump is used to replace the heart, an oxygenator replaces the lungs and a dialysis unit takes over the functions of the kidneys. In addition, many infusions of hormones and nutrients perform the functions of the intestine and the pancreas” , they add. Like the diaphragm in the human body, the machine also moves the liver in time with human breathing.

Lower the tension

The team prepared the liver in the machine with different drugs. In this way, it was possible to transform the liver into a good graft, although it was initially not approved for transplantation. The perfusion of the organ over several days makes it possible, for example, to carry out antibiotic or hormonal therapies or to optimize the metabolism of the liver. In addition, lengthy laboratory or tissue analyzes can be performed without time constraints. “Under normal circumstances this is not possible as organs can only be preserved for 12 hours if stored conventionally on ice,” detail the researchers.

The experiment will now be conducted on 24 other livers. Eventually, organ transplants may no longer have to be done in an emergency and become procedures that can be planned over time, thus reducing the tension around these interventions.


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