Artificial liver progress

What exactly is an artificial liver?
05 August 2020
Presented by Katie Haylor


Illustration of a human liver.


The liver is an incredible organ that does a number of different jobs - including cleaning our blood and breaking down chemicals and drugs - to keep us healthy. And liver problems can have serious consequences, resulting in potentially needing a new one in the case of liver failure. And there aren’t exactly loads of spare healthy livers around, and some people just aren’t suited for transplant. Scientists have published news of an artificial liver system that cleans the blood, and returns it again to the body within a matter of hours, whilst also encouraging the liver tissue to regenerate. And it’s been done so far in pigs with drug-induced liver failure. As David Hay from Edinburgh University explained to Katie Haylor, the idea of an artificial liver isn’t new, but the novelty in the work lies in creating a renewable source of human liver cells that go into the device the blood flows through, and it’s these cells that are doing the work of the patient’s diseased liver. So first up, how exactly does it work?


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