Humans Can Keep Livers Alive and Making Bile for 24 Hours Outside of a Body

Liver, liver on the wall ...
More

Have you ever wanted to keep a liver alive for more than a few hours outside of a body, without the annoyance of buying ice, and worrying that after a few hours it will stop functioning? If so, or if you're a transplant surgeon who wants to save as many lives as possible, the Oxford University Transplant Centre has good news.

In another medical first (2013 is really lighting things up) a team at King's College Hospital kept a donor liver alive and functioning outside of a human being by using a new machine called OrganOx Metra before successfully transplanting it into a patient. Developers of the technology, Oxford professors Constantin Coussios and Peter Friend say it can keep a liver functioning normally for "24 hours or more" outside of a human body.

liver liver on the wall.jpg
A liver, five minutes after connection to the OrganOx Metra, fully perfused with the red cell solution and at physiological temperature [Reuters]

liver liver on the wall 4.jpg
Inside an operating room at King's College Hospital following the successful connection of the first human liver for transplant onto the OrganOx Metra device. [Reuters]

The idea is that since the demand for donor livers still far outpaces the supply -- thousands of people still die awaiting liver transplants -- surgical teams need every advantage in making sure no liver is wasted. Coussios, a professor of biomedical engineering at Oxford, told Reuters that he believes keeping livers-in-waiting alive on this machine, as opposed to the traditional, shorter-lived practice of keeping them on ice, could effectively double the number of available livers.

If technological advances like this play out, getting a new liver may soon be as simple as stealing a bottle of lotion in front of a security guard while on probation so that you can go back to jail to get access to health care.

Jump to comments
Presented by

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The AtlanticHe is the host of If Our Bodies Could Talk.

 
 
More

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In