Scientists discover a way of & # 39; supercooling & # 39; livers so that their & # 39; transplant window & # 39; It lasts 27 hours – three times longer than currently possible
- Scientists used a cocktail of chemicals, including an ingredient in antifreeze
- They were able to keep livers at temperatures below zero without being frozen
- There are currently 431 people waiting for a donor liver in the UK, data show
- Experts hope that the same method can be used to preserve other donor organs
There is new hope for people on transplant waiting lists, of technology that keeps organs alive longer.
Scientists have discovered a way to & # 39; supercool & & # 39; make livers so that they last three times as long.
It means that the & # 39; transplant window & # 39; to get an organ from a donor to someone who desperately needs it has gone from just nine hours to 27 hours.
The breakthrough, which allows livers to be stored for longer, comes from a cocktail of chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze.
For the first time, human livers can now be stored at temperatures below zero without being frozen, which would destroy them.
Scientists have discovered a way to & # 39; supercool & & # 39; make livers so that they last three times as long (stock)
There are currently 431 people waiting for a liver transplant in the UK and 45 died last year while on the waiting list.
Amid a shortage of organs, despite drivers rushing to get organs to patients, a small number is wasted because they fail to make it on time.
If livers can be stored for longer, this would remove one of the obstacles for people who get the organ they need.
The researchers hope that the same technology can be used to preserve donated kidneys and hearts.
Dr. Shannon Tessier, a co-author of the Harvard Medical School study, said: & # 39; An organ often becomes available when there is no good match around, so in terms of assignment, when you add that extra amount that means that you can search a greater distance, which means that you not only have a good match, but also an excellent match.
WHEN IS A LIVER TRANSPLANT NEEDED?
Liver transplants are required when the organ is sick or damaged in such a way that it cannot perform its normal functions, which is known as liver failure or end-stage liver disease.
The liver can gradually become damaged due to illness, infection or alcohol.
This causes it to become scars, which is known as cirrhosis. Inflammation, tissue death and cancer can also lead to a transplant.
In 2015, 611 patients were on the waiting list for a liver transplant in the UK, according to statistics from NHS England. Up to 18 percent die while waiting.
In the US, nearly 17,000 people are waiting for a new liver, according to the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation at Columbia University.
A donor liver can be removed from a person who has recently died or part of the organ can be taken from a living donor. This is because the liver can regenerate into an organ of normal size.
Donor organs are currently stored through refrigeration and storage in a refrigerator.
& # 39; And that means you throw away fewer organs, get more organs to receivers, and those organs are better aligned with the receivers, meaning that organ can have a longer life within the receiver. & # 39;
It is now thought that one in five people in the UK has non-alcoholic fatty liver, which could increase the demand for liver transplants in the coming years.
But currently, after an organ donor dies, their liver can usually only be transplanted into a patient within nine hours.
This is because livers are stored above the freezing temperature at 4C (39F), which is not cold enough to keep them longer.
There is no choice to go lower than 4 ° C, because ice crystals naturally form in liver cells and tissue at a lower temperature and break down.
Scientists have been looking for a way to get the benefits of freezing without cell damage and have achieved this in rat livers five years ago.
The chemical cocktail they identified contains glycerol, which is used in commercial antifreeze and is found in the human body, a compound called PEG that lowers the temperature at which liver cells freeze, and one called 3-OMG that protects against the cold.
To make their cocktail work in human livers that are 200 times larger than those of rats, they have ensured that they are not exposed to the air, which helps to form ice.
They added two new chemicals to protect the cells and found a way to flush the entire cocktail through the blood vessels of the liver.
It means that livers can be kept at minus 4C (minus 39F) and last longer than a day, which, according to the researchers, can mean the difference between a liver transplant that succeeds or fails.
They have not yet transplanted organs that have been preserved in this way in humans, but hope to be able to do so in pigs the following year.
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