Surgeons attached a pig liver to a brain-dead human body from the outside and observed it successfully filtering blood, a step toward testing the technique in patients with liver failure.
On January 19, the University of Pennsylvania (USA) announced a new experiment, another turning point in organ transplantation from animals to humans. In this case, the pig liver is used outside the donor body, not inside – a way to create a “bridge” to support failing livers by performing a cleansing of the organ’s blood. from the outside, like dialysis for failing kidneys.
Animal-to-human transplants – called xenotransplants – have failed for decades because the human immune system rejects foreign tissue. Now scientists are trying again with pigs whose organs have been genetically modified to be more human-like.
In recent years, kidneys from genetically modified pigs have been temporarily transplanted into brain-dead donors to see how they function. Most recently, two men received heart transplants from pigs, although both died within months.
Some researchers are also looking into ways to use pig liver. The liver has a different complexity than the kidneys and heart: It filters the blood, removes waste, and produces substances needed for other body functions. About 10,000 people are currently on the liver transplant waiting list in the US.
In the University of Pennsylvania experiment, researchers attached a pig’s genetically engineered liver to a device made by Organix, which typically helps preserve donor livers before transplantation. The deceased’s family did not have suitable organs to donate, so they donated the body for research. Machines keep the body’s blood circulating.
The experiment was conducted last month, filtering blood through a pig liver device for 72 hours. In a statement, the team reported that the donor’s body remained stable and the pig liver showed no signs of damage.