The McGowan Institute is developing an artificial liver — composed of both synthetic materials and live liver cells — that can filter blood like a natural liver. This device is designed to sustain a patient until a donor organ is available, or unburden the liver for a time so that it can heal. In an early clinical research study, 80 percent of those treated with the artificial liver survived until a donor organ was found or recovered liver function.
Liver transplantation (which UPMC surgeons helped to make feasible) is the standard of care for many liver diseases. But donor organs are scarce, and some people succumb to liver failure before a donor is found. Our research will provide assistance while new therapies incorporating stem cells, gene therapy, or engineered tissues are employed to repair or replace the damaged organ.
The artificial liver is now being prepared for the next stage of clinical studies.