London, Jun 18 (PTI) Up to seven in every 10 donor livers that would have otherwise been rejected for transplantation could be used after just four to six hours of treatment with a liver perfusion technique, a new study says.
The research, published in the journal Nature Communications on Thursday, could have significant implications for those on the liver transplant waiting list, and for the commissioning of local transplant services.
According to the scientists, including those from the University of Birmingham in the UK, currently a third of donated livers in the country do not meet desired transplant criteria and aren't used.
On the other hand, they said chronic liver disease is rising annually as a result of obesity, and increasing alcohol misuse is causing approximately 8,500 deaths per year in the UK.
For those with end-stage liver disease, the study said a transplant is the only hope for survival, with the demand for livers suitable for transplantation far outstripping supply.
However, the researchers said a growing proportion of donated livers are of lower quality and pose risks to recipients due to which the majority are not transplanted.
In the research, the scientists found that just four to six hours of normothermic machine perfusion assessment enabled 70 per cent of currently discarded livers to recover enough to allow successful transplantation into a recipient.
'Whilst liver transplantation is one of the most advanced surgical procedures, up to now, there has been no objective means to assess suitability of donor livers for transplantation,' said Hynek Mergental study co-author from the University of Birmingham.
'The VITTAL trial validated our pre-clinical research and pilot clinical observations and these viability criteria can now guide transplant teams worldwide to provide access to the life-saving transplantation to more patients in need,' Mergental said.
According to the scientists, the major challenge in the clinical trial was to assure patients safety while pushing the envelope of sub-optimal liver utilisation.
'It has long been recognised that as a consequence of our population aging the quality of donated livers keeps declining,' said study co-author Simon Afford from the University of Birmingham.
'Based on our latest discoveries we believe that in the near future the machine perfusion platform will facilitate therapeutic interventions to improve liver viability,' Afford said.
In the future, the scientists hope to be able to salvage even more organs than the 70 per cent observed in the VITTAL trial, including livers from donors with known alcohol misuse or obesity. PTI HSR VIS VIS