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Using technology developed at the University of Oxford, doctors have kept a liver “alive” outside a human being and then successfully transplanted it into a patient in need of a new liver. According to a news release from the University of Oxford, the procedure has been performed on two patients on the liver transplant waiting list at King’s College Hospital.
Donor organs are typically preserved by putting them “on ice” to slow their metabolism. Unfortunately, this process can damage the organs. The new device, however, could keep a functioning liver alive outside the body for 24 hours. The device allows the liver to function normally just like it would inside a human body. In fact, the liver regains its color and produces bile as the device raises it to body temperature and circulates oxygenated red bloods cells through its capillaries.
The success of the first two transplants suggests that the device could be used for other patients on the liver transplant waiting list. Researchers believe that the special device could also double the number of organs available for transplant by preserving livers that would otherwise be tossed aside.
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