Une machine permettrait de « soigner » des foies trop endommagés pour être greffés. © Lightfields Studios, Adobe Stock

The first liver transplant was made possible by a machine that mimics the human body

Organ transplants are delicate operations that must be performed as soon as possible to preserve the quality of the graft. A machine designed by Swiss doctors can extend the life of a graft, but also improve its quality. For the first time, a man was transplanted with an organ treated by this innovative device.

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The Swiss company Liver4Life has developed a machine that could increase the duration and quality of life foies intended for transplantation. Zurich project investigators have just taken an important step. After showing that a liver can survive in their machine that mimics the human body for several days in 2020, they have just provided the results ofa liver transplant conducted in May 2021 on a volunteer with cancer of the liver and on a waiting list.

One year later, the patient is OK and there are no signs of rejection. « I am grateful for this organ that saved my life. Because of my tumor rapidly evolving, I was unlikely to get a liver within a reasonable time », tells the patient. The details appeared in Nature Biotechnology May 31, 2022. Indeed, the organ transplanted to him was considered too damaged to serve as a graft and was discharged from all hospitals.

A machine-saved graft

The Liver4Life machine strives to most faithfully mimic the human body and the conditions necessary for the survival of the liver, as if it were still there. A system of perfusion feeds the graft with hormones and nutrients, a heart-shaped pump ensures the supply of oxygen. One dialysis replaces the kidneys. Finally, the machine moves the graft as the diaphragm would naturally do during breathing.

A few days in the machine restored the damaged liver and made it grafted. « Ours therapy shows that by treating the liver in the infusion machine, it is possible to alleviate the lack of functional human organs and save lives. »

A first to be confirmed

If this first transplant is a success, more will be needed, done in hospitals, to confirm the effectiveness and safety of this approach. If this materializes, liver transplantation, which is often an emergency procedure since the grafts survive only twelve hours outside the human body before degrading, could be planned in advance. At the same time, the promoters of this project are working to create a new generation of machines.

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