Scientists triple storage time of human donor livers

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Before, human livers were only usable for an average of nine hours, but a new method of preservation maintains liver tissue for up to 27 hours.

The research is supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which are both part of the National Institutes of Health.

When cells freeze it often causes damage and since human cells are especially sensitive, donor livers are stored above freezing at 4 degrees Celsius. This process allows doctors around nine hours before the chances of a successful transplantation decreases.

“By giving doctors and patients more time, this research could someday affect thousands of patients who are waiting for liver transplants,” said Seila Selimovic, Ph.D., director of NIBIB’s Engineered Tissues program.

In previous studies, scientists developed a technique using an ingredient in antifreeze. The compound allowed researchers to cool rat livers to -6 degrees Celsius without freezing them, a process called supercooling.

However, while the techniques worked with the rat livers in those earlier studies, it was unsuccessful when applied to human livers, which are 200 times larger.

In a paper published on September 9th researchers detail three new steps to the protocol to preserve human livers for up to 27 hours.

The first step was to limit the contact of the storage liquid to air. When supercooled, the livers are submerged in the supercooling protective solution.

Next, the researchers included two additional ingredients to stabilize and protect cells.

Finally, they developed a new method of delivering the preservation solution to the liver.

While researchers have not yet implanted a liver into a human using the new technique, traditional methods of testing viability indicate the process will not negatively affect the organ.

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