In Switzerland, researchers have succeeded in treating a liver transplant and storing it for three days in a machine before transplanting it. Normally, a liver transplant cannot be stored for more than 12 hours.
A new medical feat. For the first time in the world, a Swiss team has developed a machine, allowing the preservation of a human liver for up to three days before reimplantation. A discovery that could facilitate many transplants. Even today, many health professionals describe them as “races against time”: four hours for the heart, a maximum of twelve for the liver… Beyond that, the consequences can be irreversible for the organs and can harm a whole organization urgently planned in the hospital.
To best preserve the organs, this machine designed by the Liver4Life research group imitates the functioning of the body as precisely as possible: temperature at 37°C, pump imitating the heart, oxygenator for the lungs, dialysis unit for the kidneys… . “The engineers even imagined a mobile pad on which the liver rests, to reproduce the movements of the diaphragm, without which we realized that certain tissues were necrosing.“, specifies Professor Pierre-Alain Clavien, surgeon in charge of the project.
“The Liver4Life research team has successfully developed an infusion machine allowing the transplantation of a human organ after a period of three days out of a body”, the scientists said in a statement. Used since 2020 by the research group to preserve a graft for several days, the machine has made it possible to carry out a first transplant in May 2021, on a cancer patient. A year later, he is healthy.
Treat the liver in addition to preserving it
While it was in the machine, the liver was not only kept in the best possible condition, but also treated with antibiotics and antifungals: the inflammation it presented disappeared. “Our therapy demonstrates that by treating liver transplants in the infusion machine, we can reduce the dysfunctions of the organ and save lives“says Professor Clavien.
The experiment will now be carried out on 24 other livers in a trial with other hospitals and if the results are confirmed, this machine could improve the condition of organs that were not eligible for transplantation and therefore increase the reservoir of organs to be transplanted in patients in need. Eventually, organ transplants could move from emergency operations to procedures that can be planned over time and therefore reduce the tension around these interventions.
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