UMCG per­forms ‘test run’ on donor liv­ers before trans­plan­ta­tion

Groningen, The Netherlands, 15 maart 2013 – Groningen to be the first to keep a liv­er warm out­side a human body. Researchers and liv­er sur­geons at the University Medical Center in Groningen in the Netherlands have been the first to suc­cess­ful­ly keep a liv­er at body tem­per­a­ture out­side a human body. With this tech­nique, a donor liv­er can be test­ed before being trans­plant­ed.
The researchers have pub­lished this world­wide break­through in the American Journal of Transplantation. In this pub­li­ca­tion put online on March 6th this year, the authors describe how the researchers and liv­er sur­geons kept four human liv­ers alive out­side a human body. Meanwhile, eight liv­ers have been added to this num­ber.
By using this tech­nique, the researchers in Groningen have been able to keep a donor liv­er alive for hours out­side a human body. This allowed them to test if the liv­er func­tions well enough to be used in trans­plan­ta­tion. While per­fus­ing the liv­er with oxy­gen rich blood, vit­a­mins and oth­er essen­tial nutri­ents that the organ also receives while in a human body, the research­es saw the liver’s col­or and acid­i­ty resume nor­mal val­ues. They also deter­mined that the liv­er was pro­duc­ing bile again. In short, it resumed its nor­mal func­tions out­side a human body. This tech­nique not only allows a check of a liver’s suit­abil­i­ty for a ‘sec­ond life’ after trans­plan­ta­tion, in the future, it will also enable physi­cians to improve a liver’s qual­i­ty. Amongst oth­ers, this may be achieved by adding med­i­cines to the blood used to rinse the liv­er.
In the Netherlands, 140 liv­ers are trans­plant­ed annu­al­ly. The num­ber of peo­ple will­ing to donate a liv­er is high­er, but a con­sid­er­able amount of donor liv­ers is reject­ed for trans­plan­ta­tion before­hand. The UMCG expects that by using this tech­nique, the num­ber of reject­ed liv­ers will decrease.
This tech­nique has been devel­oped using reject­ed donor liv­ers. Naturally, this has been done with the con­sent of rel­a­tives and in coop­er­a­tion with the Netherlands Transplantation Foundation. Several cen­ters around the world are cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing sim­i­lar tech­niques. Until now, this was main­ly done using liv­ers of mice and pigs. Now, physi­cians and researchers at the UMCG have been the first to keep human liv­ers alive out­side a body. The machine used to keep the liv­ers warm and sup­ply it with blood has also been devel­oped in Groningen and is pro­duced by the com­pa­ny OrganAssist. Variants of this tech­nique have also been devel­oped for oth­er organs, though the tech­nique dif­fers for each organ. Moreover, these dif­fer­ent tech­niques are in var­i­ous stages of devel­op­ment. In February of this year, the UMCG Transplant Center had a first in the Netherlands when it announced that the improve­ment of donor lungs out­side the body was now suit­ed for use in the clin­ic.
The UMCG is the largest trans­plan­ta­tion cen­ter of the Netherlands. Each year, some six­ty liv­er trans­plants are being per­formed, rough­ly a third of which in chil­dren. The team at the UMCG expects the new tech­nique to become a reg­u­lar part of the trans­plan­ta­tion pro­gram lat­er this year.
The pub­li­ca­tion can be found at:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ajt.12187/abstract
For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact the UMCG press office at +31 50 361 22 00. Persberichten van het UMCG zijn ook te raad­ple­gen op www.umcg.nl.

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