Background: The clinical development of liver-support devices based on perfusion of either pig hepatocytes cartridges or whole pig livers has been hampered by the ability to use sufficient liver cell mass to provide adequate metabolic support, limited perfusion times, and the potential for patient exposure to pig zoonotic diseases.
Methods: We designed an original system in which an isolated intact pig liver was perfused extracorporeally under physiological conditions in a closed loop circuit with allogeneic pig blood and constant monitoring of major physiological and functional parameters. The perfusion circuit further included an interface membrane to provide for separation of patient and liver perfusion circulation.
Results: Prolonged (6-21 hr) liver perfusion did not produce significant liver damage as reflected by modest rises in the levels of the serum transaminases, stability of main biochemical parameters (including potassium), and the maintenance of normal cellular morphology. Optimal liver function was documented as measured by lactate consumption, control of glycemia, and the results of clotting studies and functional assays. The perfused liver cleared 82% and 79% of peak bilirubin and ammonia concentrations with clearing kinetics identical throughout perfusion. Indocyanine green clearance was identical to that observed in the living donor before explant surgery.
Conclusions: In conclusion, the extracorporeal pig liver perfusion apparatus described here allows optimal pig liver function for prolonged periods of time. The microporous membrane to provide separation of donor organ and recipient and the high level of functional activity suggest that this form of liver metabolic support may have important clinical applications.