Sunday, February 26, 2012

Transplant breakthrough as livers 'kept alive' outside body giving hope to hundreds

Daily Mail | Jo MacFarlane
Scientists have created a machine which can keep donor livers functioning outside the body.

The breakthrough – a British first – could save the lives of hundreds of people needing liver transplants every year.

Livers taken from organ donors are currently packed in ice for up to 12 hours to prevent them from decay while they are transported, but this technique can affect the blood vessels and cause excess fat on the organ to solidify.

It means many are considered unsuitable for use and are discarded, despite the wishes of patients and families. In other cases the livers fail because of the damage caused to them during the transplant process.

The new machine keeps the liver in a solution at body temperature and feeds it with blood, oxygen and nutrients.

The technique allows doctors to monitor how well the organ functions and means livers can be stored for far longer – up to 24 hours – before being transplanted.

Known as METRA, the machine was originally used on pig livers but a recent trial found that out of 13 human livers discarded by doctors, six would have been good enough to be transplanted.
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