Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UNC to test new assist device for failed livers


Prospects for surviving acute liver failure are very slim, and statistics place mortality as high as 90 percent. A liver transplant may be the only alternative before fatal complications set in, yet not enough donor organs are available to meet the demand.

But a new bio-artificial technology about to undergo clinical tests at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and several other centers nationally may help extend the lives of those awaiting a donor liver and may even allow the damaged liver to heal itself completely.

Known by its acronym ELAD, the extracorporeal liver assist device is the first such technology to contain functioning human hepatocytes, liver cells that help sustain and support the work of the patient’s damaged and failed organ. Other liver assist systems use hepatocytes from pigs.

The new device is a closed system to which patients are tethered via a catheter inserted into a vein in the neck. After the blood is initially filtered, the remaining plasma goes through cartridges in the ELAD where the human hepatocytes help fulfill much of the liver’s 100 or so crucial functions, such as energy storage and regulation, bile production, blood detoxification, production of clotting factors and many essential proteins. The filtered blood and ELAD-treated plasma are returned to the patient.

Dr. Roshan Shrestha, associate professor of medicine and medical director of the liver transplantation program at UNC, said ELAD could provide two major benefits.

"This device could serve as a bridge to successful transplantation, helping to sustain patients awaiting a donor organ."

It also may enable complete recovery, he added.

"A remarkable feature of the liver is its capacity to regenerate. If we can sustain acute liver failure patients early on, right from the beginning, they may not need transplantation and may recover without any significant liver problems, including chronic liver disease."

Shrestha, principal investigator for the UNC study site, said a first-phase clinical trial conducted in the United States and Great Britain during 1999 and 2000 showed promising results. In that study, sponsored by ELAD maker Vitagen Inc., 11 of 12 (91.6 percent) of patients who had been randomized to receive treatment with the new device achieved either a successful bridge to transplantation or full recovery. In a control group of patients receiving standard care, three of seven (42 percent) achieved those benefits.

In an analysis of overall results in 25 patients, including those not listed for liver transplantation, 13 of 16 (81 percent) improved on the device, compared to only five of nine (51 percent) in the control group.

Shrestha said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was sufficiently pleased with the results to give its nod to a second-phase trial, also sponsored by Vitagen. Safety and effectiveness, including survival at 30 days, is the main endpoint, Shrestha said.

"The primary objective is to evaluate the safety, efficacy and tolerability of the ELAD system in patients with acute hepatic [liver] failure. Our secondary objective is to evaluate the study protocol with respect to patient inclusion and exclusion criteria and to study the system’s performance with regard to endpoints." Total enrollment for this trial is between 30 and 40 patients. A larger third-phase trial may follow, with an enrollment of at least 200 people with acute liver failure.

"Currently, we don’t have very good therapies for patients with acute liver failure. That’s why we’re hoping that the new technology will make a big difference," Shrestha said. "The bottom line is to save lives."

Note: Contact Shrestha at (919) 843-9459 or (919) 966-2516 (choose option "O"), or

School of Medicine contact: Les Lang, (919) 843-9687 or

Leslie H. Lang | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>