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liver transplant surgery

1. Introduction:

The only treatment available for liver failure is liver transplant surgery; but donor organs are difficult to obtain, and the procedure, which is expensive and complex, is frequently unsuccessful.

A workable artificial liver is desperately needed. Unlike the heart and the kidneys, the liver is able to regenerate; many people who have suffered liver damage would survive if they could be supported by an artificial liver until their own livers heal. The device could also save the lives of hepatitis victims. And, an artificial liver could support patients awaiting transplant surgery, or waiting for a new donor organ after a transplant has failed.

The liver is an extremely complex organ. It performs a variety of functions, and many of them are still poorly understood. One science journalist speculated that the equipment needed to simulate the functions of a single human liver would occupy a large office building.

Here a different approach is used to develop an artificial liver, instead of trying to design mountains of equipments to perform each of the liver's functions, a device that uses liver cells obtained from animals is used. Because the device contains both biological and manufactured components, it is called a "bio-artificial liver." A patient's blood circulates through this bio-artificial liver, where a unique synthetic membrane separates it from the animal cells. The membrane prevents immunologic rejection of the cells, but allows the cells to detoxify the blood in the same way as a natural liver.