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Study reveals transplanted livers can survive for more than 100 years

As study shows that livers can work for more than 100 years, there is potential to make more of these organs available for transplant (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@DottAndri)

Now there is good news for those who are waiting for a liver transplant. As per a report in smithsonianmag.com, researchers have found that livers can work for more than 100 years.

For this study, the scientists used the organ transplant database of the United Network for Organ Sharing to evaluate the ages of 2,53,406 livers which had been transplanted from 1990 to 2022. They found that 25 of these livers had survived for more than a century. In fact, 14 are still working for their recipient.

The oldest of these was 108 years old.

Details of this study were presented at the Scientific Forum of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2022. It has great potential as it could help in making more livers accessible for donation which would reduce the waiting time for this particular organ.

Sharing details of the study in a Press release, its lead author Yash Kadakia of Texas Southwestern Medical School said: “We looked at pre-transplant survival—essentially, the donor’s age—as well as how long the liver went on to survive in the recipient. Livers are incredibly resilient organs…We’re using older donors, we have better surgical techniques, we have advances in immunosuppression, and we have better matching of donor and recipient factors. All these things allow us to have better outcomes.”

The average donor age of the 25 “centurion livers” was 84.7 and that of the non-centurion ones was 38.5. One more interesting find was that the livers that made it to 100 had worked at least for a decade in the recipient and in the case of the non-centurion ones only 60 per cent had survived after a decade.

Scientists discovered that side effects due to liver transplantation  like diabetes and donor infections were far less in those patients who had the older livers. As per ACS the rejection rate at 12 months for both these groups was the same.

Emphasising the importance of the study in New Scientist, Patricia Lalor, who is a researcher at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom commented: “It is important that this study shows that good-quality donor livers that are older can go on to do very well in their new recipients. We need as many donor organs as possible to address increasing requirements for transplantation.”

Lalor was not part of the study.

Throughout the world the demand for livers for transplantation is high. Yet, this organ from older donors is avoided as it has more chances of damage due to consumption of alcohol, infections and obesity as per New Scientist.

Commenting on this aspect, the study’s co-author Christine S. Hwang said: “We previously tended to shy away from using livers from older donors. If we can sort out what is special amongst these donors, we could potentially get more available livers to be transplanted and have good outcomes.”

Hwang is an organ transplant surgery expert at the UT Southwestern Medical Center.

As one still doesn’t know why some livers survive for long periods more research needs to be done. Emphasising on the need to do this, Kadakia said: “Studying these livers that made it to age 100 could reveal new biomarkers that are important for liver lifespan. Manipulating such markers in livers before transplantation could help us improve the outcome.”