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Donor livers kept alive outside the body for 24 hours

Donated livers can survive for at least a day outside the body thanks to a new device which keeps the organ ticking over as if it hadn't been removed. The machine is likely to more than double the availability of livers for transplant.

The device was unveiled today in London by its developer Peter Friend, professor of transplantation surgery at the University of Oxford.

In the US and Europe, 2000 livers get discarded each year because they deteriorate in transit, damaged by the ice packs and solutions that, for the past 40 years, have been the usual way to preserve them. At present, a quarter of the 30,000 people on US and European liver transplant waiting lists die each year before receiving an organ.

The new device can keep a donated liver at body temperature, supplying it with blood, sugar, oxygen and nutrients.

Whereas most frozen livers become unusable after about 14 hours of cold storage, the new device keeps them alive and in perfect condition for at least 24 hours. "In animals, we've gone up to 72 hours and see no reason why it shouldn't go even further than that," says Friend.

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