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New Technique Keeps Liver 'Alive' Outside The Body Then Transplanted To New Patient, May Increase Number Of Successful Liver Transplants

Mar 15, 2013 03:42 PM EDT

A human liver has been kept alive and functioning outside of the human body and then successfully transplanted into a new patient, marking the first time the world medical community has witnessed such a feat.

The announcement came Friday from a team of British doctors who said the use of liver perfusion units will likely become common practice in hospitals in developed countries around the world, a report from Reuters stated.

The procedure has been performed successfully on two patients who were on Britain's liver transplant waiting list.

Professor Constantin Coussios, one of the men involved in engineering the liver perfusion technique, said the procedure changes the paradigm for organ preservation. Previously organs were harvested from a body and could be kept "on ice" for about half a day.

"This effectively replicates the body environment at normal body temperature," Coussios said in a video posted by BBC.

The organ will have blood flowing through it almost continuously and will be functioning normally from the time it is harvested, never "knowing" it has left the body.

"If we can introduce technology like this into everyday practice, it could be a real, bona fide game changer for transplantation as we know it," said Nigel Heaton, director of transplant surgery at King's College Hospital in London, where the first two transplants using the device took place, according to Reuters.

More than 100 patients dies while waiting for a liver transplant each year, the BBC reported.

Coussios said about half of the organs used for donation in the UK come from "risky or marginal donors"

"We believe that these organs can be improved and, most importantly, assessed on this device," Coussios said. "Therefore we could as much as double organ preservation within current donation practices."The first patient to receive a liver from the new procedure is doing well as recovered in the "shortest possible time."

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