Human liver can be kept alive


Human livers have been kept ‘alive’ outside the body using a device designed by British scientists. At the moment, transplant organs are put on ice and are mostly used within 14 hours of being removed.
But a new procedure allows livers to be kept fresh for up to three days if they are stored at body temperature and supplied with red blood cells, oxygen and nutrients.
The inventors of the machine hope it will increase the number of livers available for transplant in the UK from 650 to well over 1,000.
So far two patients at King’s College Hospital, London, have had livers kept alive in this way and both are making excellent recoveries.
Iain Christie, 62, from Torbay, Devon, was the first man in the world to receive a liver from the shopping trolley-sized machine. Christie said: “I feel better than I’ve felt for ten to 15 years, even allowing for the pain and the wound that’s got to heal. “I’m getting better and better day by day. I just feel so alive!”
The machine was invented by Professor Constantin Coussios of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science, and Professor Peter Friend, director of the Oxford Transplant Centre, who are founders of OrganOx. Once the donor liver is hooked up to the machine, the doctor simply presses two buttons, ‘play’ or ‘stop’. Professor Coussios said: “It was astounding to see an initially cold grey liver flushing with colour within 30 seconds once hooked up to our machine and performing as it would within the body. It even produces bile. “What was even more amazing was to see the same liver transplanted into a patient who is now walking.”
Professor Friend, who has been working on the device for 15 years, said a European ‘kitemark’ of quality could be granted next year enabling it to be used in NHS hospitals. The Oxford team believes the new technology could be adapted to suit other transplant organs, including the pancreas, kidney, small bowel and lungs.