Swiss scientists have succeeded in recovering a damaged liver from a mechanical device for three days and transplanting it into a patient. Until now, the liver could only be stored outside the body for up to 12 hours at 4 degrees Celsius. This result is expected to have the effect of significantly increasing the number of livers that can be transplanted into patients, saving countless lives.
A research team led by Professor Pierre-Alain Clavien of the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, published in the international academic journal Nature Biotechnology on the 1st, “We have transplanted a liver that restored its function while providing nutrients and oxygen in a mechanical device for 3 days to a patient, and so far for over a year. He maintained his health.”
So far, pig livers or damaged human livers have been placed in a machine to maintain their function, but this is the first time that a liver has been restored and transplanted into a real patient with a machine.
◇ The mechanical device takes care of the heart, lungs, and kidneys to recover and then transplants it to the patient, so it maintains its normal function for more than a year
The researchers donated livers from people with sepsis. The donor had already suffered liver damage from indigestion. There was also a wound in the liver, but there was not enough time to test within 12 hours to see if there was any harm in transplanting or if there was cancer. The hospital had no choice but to make a decision not to transplant.
The Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the Wies Zurich Institute have developed ‘Liver4Life’, an in vitro liver function recovery device. In 2020, the liver maintained its function outside the body for a week with this device. The River 4 Life device supplies donated blood to the liver to provide nutrients and oxygen, and adjusts temperature and pressure to match the human body. It also removes waste products such as carbon dioxide.
The researchers first used a mechanical device to drain the remaining fluid from the liver. A tube was then connected to the veins and arteries of the liver. The pump supplied blood instead of the heart, the oxygenator replaced the lungs, and the dialyzer replaced the kidneys. Infusion of hormones and nutrients took on the role of the pancreas and intestines.
Professor Klavien said, “I kept the liver in an optimal state to the point where I didn’t even know it was outside the body. For example, I made sure to eat sugar at the same time as usual.” In addition, antibiotics were injected to eliminate harmful bacteria, and a biopsy confirmed that the wounds in the liver were not cancerous.
In May of last year, the researchers transplanted a liver recovered by a mechanical device into a 62-year-old cirrhosis patient. This patient was unable to survive until a liver was donated by standard transplantation procedures. Six days after transplantation, the liver began to regenerate in the patient’s body. A year after the transplant operation, the transplanted liver is showing normal function and the wound area has been reduced by half, the researchers said.
◇ Expected to greatly help in resolving the imbalance in the supply and demand of organs by increasing transplantable organs
The scientific community expected that the device developed by Swiss researchers could help solve the chronic long-term supply-demand imbalance. This is because even organs that have been judged to be non-transplantable due to poor condition can be used to save lives if they are recovered outside the body with a mechanical device.
The long-term supply-demand imbalance is serious. The number of people waiting for one of the seven largest organ transplants in Korea increased 2.1 times over the past decade, from 21,833 in 2011 to 45,776 last year. On the other hand, the number of people dying waiting for transplant surgery is increasing due to the lack of organ donation. According to the National Organ and Blood Institute, the number of deaths awaiting organ transplantation increased from 1,492 in 2016 to 2,194 in 2020.
The researchers said that the liver recovery device can be easily applied to other organs as well. Professor Klavien said, “We tested the same device on the kidneys and the results were good.
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