Researchers have begun to grow new livers from rejected donor organs in a breakthrough that could transform transplantation surgery.
A team at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead is the first to reveal the feasibility of stripping a liver of its cells and reusing its “natural scaffold” in a patient whose own liver has stopped working properly.
Liver disease is an increasingly important health issue, with 30 per cent of British adults having a fatty liver, often because of being overweight, and is an alarm bell for cardiovascular disease.
The Royal Free team, led by Dr Giuseppe Mazza and Professor Massimo Pinzani, published research in Nature Scientific Report that showed scaffolds can be successfully “repopulated” with human liver cells that continue to function. This paves the way for a new liver to be grown using stem cells taken from the patient requiring a transplant. The replacement organ would be transplanted and have less of a chance of rejection than a conventional transplant because it would contain the patient’s cells.
The discovery would mean patients suffering liver failure would not have to wait on the transplant list for a donor organ — 145 days on average. The 25 per cent of donated livers — about 900 organs a year — that cannot be used because they are too fatty, cancerous or not matched in time would no longer be wasted. Professor Pinzani, who is working on the project with Dr Mazza at the UCL Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at the Royal Free, said: “The long term is making new organs and reducing the need for donor organs.”Share