Technology and its breakthroughs never cease to amaze us. Scientists have found a way to make livers last for three times as long, and that means there’s hope for those on transplant waiting lists. Super cooling is all set to make the 'transplant window' jump from 9 to 27 hours.
A mixture of chemicals can make this possible, including an element that is used in anti-freeze. In a first, human livers can be retained and stored at sub-zero temperatures, without freezing, which would lead to their destruction.
This discovery comes as a blessing for about 431 people who are currently awaiting liver transplants in the UK. With organ shortage, a number of people die because sometimes the organs don’t reach on time. Storing livers for longer would remove one of the major barriers in making the organ accessible for those who need it. Researchers hope this can be applied to making other organs last longer as well.
Dr Shannon Tessier, a co-author of the study from Harvard Medical School said, “A lot of times when an organ becomes available, there may not be a good match nearby, so in terms of allocation, when you add that extra amount of time that means you can search a wider distance which means you have a better chance of not only finding a good match, but an excellent match.”
'And that means that you have less organ discard, get more organs to recipients, and those organs are better matched to the recipients, meaning that organ can have a longer life within the recipient,' Tessier explained.
The demand for liver transplant is set to go up in the future, as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease seems to be becoming common among people in UK. For now, nine hours is the window time for a person to get a liver transplant. Livers are stored at 4 degrees Celsius, but it’s not cold enough to make them last for a long time. Temperatures below that can cause ice crystals to break the tissues apart.
The chemical mixture they devised for sustaining the liver includes 3 main ingredients:
After testing it on rats, they prevented any exposure of the liver to air, which leads to ice formation. While transplantation in humans hasn’t been done yet, the researchers are planning to test it on pig livers first.
The need for liver transplants
According to Daily Mail, liver transplants are needed when there are instances of liver failure and the liver cannot perform its regular functions. Infection or alcohol can also cause liver damage, which is another reason why a transplant might be needed. Other causes of liver transplant include inflammation, cancer and tissue death.
The good part is, livers can be taken from people who have recently died. Or there can be live donors, and a section of the organ can be taken from them, because the liver can eventually regenerate. These organs are currently preserved in ice boxes....