Researchers Develop Machine That Can Preserve Human Liver Outside Body for Several Days

First, researchers were able to preserve and repair a human liver, which was considered too damaged to be transplanted, into a device over the course of three days, and then transplanted the restored organ into a cancer patient. Their success is set to have far-reaching consequences in the field of medicine as human livers to be transplanted are not available worldwide and this technology could increase their numbers. Liver4Life’s multidisciplinary research team from Zurich has developed a special machine that can extend the life cycle of a human liver.

In January 2020, researchers demonstrated for the first time that perfusion technology makes it possible to store the liver outside the human body for several days. They say that the perfusion machine simulates the human body as accurately as possible, in order to create optimal conditions for the liver. For example, the pump acts as a substitute for the heart and as an oxygenator as the lungs. They used a dialysis unit to perform kidney functions.

For the intestines and pancreas, the researchers used various hormones and nutrients. The machine moves the liver to the rhythm of human breathing, just as it does the diaphragm in the human body.

Current organ preservation methods provide less than 12 hours for the evaluation, transfer, and transplantation of human transplant donor grafts. “Here we report a core-discarded human liver transplant, which can be maintained for several days using an ex situ natural heat perfusion machine,” the researchers wrote in a study published in the journal. Nature Biotechnology.

Professor Pierre-Alain Clavian, of the University Hospital Zurich and part of the research team, said the machine they developed showed that “it is possible to alleviate a shortage of working human organs and save lives”.

A treated liver was transplanted in May 2021 to a cancer patient listed on the Swiss transplant waiting list after consent. The patient was able to leave the hospital a few days after the transplant and is now in good health.

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