Scientists from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Centre have developed what they call 'artificial liver'- an innovative device that will help improve survival in patients with acute liver failure.
The device called Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device, or ELAD uses immortalized human liver cells.
It is a bedside system that treats blood plasma, metabolizing toxins and synthesizing proteins just like a real liver does.
"These studies are looking at how well the system can extend patients' lives until a liver transplant becomes available," said Dr. Robert Brown, director of the Centre for Liver Disease and Transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Centre.
"We're also interested to see if it can relieve the burden on the patient's liver enough so that it can regenerate and regain some of its function," he added.
The ongoing studies look at whether ELAD liver support improves survival compared with standard medical therapy.
Patients are randomly assigned to receive either standard medical therapy plus the ELAD system, or standard medical therapy alone.
Another trial open to patients with liver failure due to drug overdose without underlying liver disease is expected to begin enrollment later this year.
With the ELAD system manufactured by Vital Therapies Inc. of San Diego, four 12-inch cartridges containing cells derived from human liver cells and fibers are mounted on a standard blood-pumping unit.
The patient's blood plasma flows inside of hollow fibres to allow appropriate two-way transfer of metabolites across the fibre membrane.