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Transplant innovation a lifesaver

By ZHENG CAIXIONG | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-11 07:04

A cirrhosis patient in Guangzhou has been discharged from the hospital after receiving a new liver using a groundbreaking technique that is expected to keep healthy organs from going to waste.

The man, identified only as Wang, 51, said on Thursday that he felt well, and expressed his gratitude to the medical staff at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.

The operation on July 23 is the first time in China a transplanted organ was kept alive using new technology that provides uninterrupted blood flow, according to the hospital.

After collection from the donor, the liver was put into a machine developed by Chinese doctors and scientists that pumped body-temperature blood into the hepatic artery, replicating the effect of being in a body, keeping the organ fresh.

Organs usually are stored on ice, but after 30 minutes without the flow of blood, they begin to die. This new technique means an organ can be stored for much longer-in the case of livers, four hours.

"The technology is a breakthrough," said He Xiaoshun, vice-president of the hospital and the top expert in its organ transplant center. The success of Wang's surgery "shows the technology can also be used in other transplant operations, including hearts, kidneys and lungs, as liver transplants are the most difficult".

The method can also "help reduce complications and shorten the period of recovery compared with traditional transplants", he said, adding that Wang was transferred to an ordinary ward from the intensive care unit only 19 hours after surgery.

More than 4,080 transplantation surgeries were carried out in China last year. However, many healthy organs are wasted due to constraints in storage and transportation, experts said.

He's team began experimenting with ways to provide uninterrupted blood flow to organs seven years ago.

After observing Wang's recovery, the hospital carried out the same operation on a 50-year-old man on Aug 8. That patient is now recovering, He said, adding that the third such transplant will take place on Friday.

While the same type of technology is being used and tested in a few other countries, machines that can keep livers alive are on the cutting edge.

Wang Xuehao, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the blood flow machine is a disruptive innovation that showcases the nation's great contribution to organ transplantation.

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