London: British scientists claim to have developed a machine which could keep donor livers "alive" outside human body.
A team at Oxford University says the machine, known as METRA which would keep livers healthy during transportation from donor to the operating table, could help save the lives of many people who need liver transplants every year.
Livers taken from organ donors are currently packed in ice for up to 12 hours to prevent them from decay while they are transported, but this technique can affect the blood vessels and cause excess fat on the organ to solidify.
This means many are considered unsuitable for use and are discarded, despite the wishes of patients and families. In other cases the livers fail because of the damage caused to them during the transplant process.
The new machine keeps the liver in a solution at body temperature and feeds it with blood, oxygen and nutrients, the `Daily Mail` reported.
The scientists say the machines uses a technique which allows doctors to monitor how well the organ functions and means livers can be stored for far longer -- up to 24 hours -- before being transplanted.
The machine, developed by Organox, a company linked to Oxford University, was originally used on pig livers but a recent trial found that out of 13 human livers discarded by doctors, six would have been good enough to be transplanted.
Prof Peter Friend, director of the Oxford Transplant Centre, said: "The results show the machine can keep a donor liver healthy as if it is still in the human body. You also can see if it is functioning well enough for transplant.
"Decisions on usability are made purely on visual judgement. That is all surgeons have at the moment. That is why this machine is so useful."
Further trials involving patients are set to be approved later this year.
An expert, surgeon David Mayer, liver lead for National Health Service`s Blood and Transplant, described the research as "extremely exciting". "If this machine comes into use then it will almost certainly increase the number of livers we can transplant," he said.