New machine keeps livers alive outside human body for an entire week


INTRO: A new system is capable of maintaining a human liver outside the body for seven days, during which time the damaged organ can be repaired and prepared for transplantation. At best, conventional technologies can sustain a liver outside the body for around 24 hours, but the new perfusion machine, developed by scientists from [...institutions in Zurich...], now extends this limit to a full week.

Remarkably, the system can take an otherwise unsuitable donor liver and bring it back to apparently normal health, remedying problems caused by severe liver disease. The system has been tested on both pig and human livers, setting the stage for actual human transplants. The new study, led by Pierre-Alain Clavien and Philipp Rudolf von Rohr, was published today in Nature Biotechnology.

Four years in the making, the system uses novel technologies to sustain the liver outside the body, or ex vivo in the parlance of the researchers. The machine simulates normal bodily functions, such as delivering blood and oxygen, managing glucose levels and red blood cell counts, and removing waste products, among other things. These simulated bodily functions are supplemented by the infusion of healing agents, such as nutrients and other essential compounds. 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... (MORE)

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