Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

FDA Testing Artificial Liver

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the with-artificial-onions dept.

Medicine 146

NIckGorton writes "Research is now underway in the US to seek FDA approval for an artificial liver. The Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device (ELAD) filters blood through a cartridge containing immortalized human liver cells with fiber tubes running through that allow the patients blood to interact with them. This allows the matrix of liver cells to perform both the metabolic (cleansing the blood of toxins/waste) and synthetic (producing albumin, clotting factors, etc) functions of the patient's failing liver. A small trial in China showed a statistically and clinically significant difference in 30 day survival with ELAD."

cancel ×

146 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Hello, Eh, Can we have your Liver? (4, Funny)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732255)

Obligatory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aclS1pGHp8o [youtube.com]

"Don't worry, there's nobody who's had their Liver taken out by Us who's survived."

Re:Hello, Eh, Can we have your Liver? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732511)

This is great. I can start drinking again!

Artificial liver (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732275)

Tastes just like actual liver, with a few more nuts and bolts though.

Force feed it a few days. See how it tastes. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732871)

Where do we put the funnel? (Don't answer that.)

Re:Force feed it a few days. See how it tastes. (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734787)

Probably like pig liver. Has anyone in the FDA, um, tested it?

Yum (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732299)

Now if we could just get some artificial onions to go with that...

Re:Yum (5, Funny)

Holi (250190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732331)

I was feeling more like fava beans, and maybe a nice chianti.

Re:Yum (1)

Slumdog (1460213) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733529)

I was feeling more like fava beans, and maybe a nice chianti.

Infact at first glance, I thought it said "FDA Tasting....". Funny And btw, why are they testing in China?

Re:Yum (1)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734449)

Now if we could just get some artificial onions to go with that...

I was feeling more like fava beans, and maybe a nice chianti.

What does an nice artificial chianti do and what does it taste like?

Re:Yum (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732799)

Now if we could just get some artificial onions to go with that...

Ketchup. LOTS of ketchup. Anything to hide the taste.

Immortalized? (3, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732309)

And they take your blood... wooden stake anyone?

Imagine... (1, Funny)

CapsaicinBoy (208973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732315)

Just imagine... a beowulf cluster of cancer cells! Woo!

Until they test... (1, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732327)

Until the FDA starts making food safe, I have no interest in their medical findings. I'm not sick YET.

Re:Until they test... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733169)

I'm not sick YET.

You will be. You will be.

Re:Until they test... (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733809)

You will be. You will be.

Probably. I had the peanut sauce at the Thai place for lunch.

Re:Until they test... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733939)

Believe me when I say this... No one cares.

I'm confused by your post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26735327)

How is that different from any other Wednesday?

IMMORTAL! (3, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732329)

I for one, and this might just be my superstitious self, would be concerned about the prospect of my bodily fluids interacting with biological material that has been, so to speak, "immortalized."

Re:IMMORTAL! (0)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732339)

I for one, and this might just be my superstitious self, would be concerned about the prospect of my bodily fluids interacting with biological material that has been, so to speak, "immortalized."

Ah, so you're saying you are an atheist?

"It am who am...the liver!"

Re:IMMORTAL! (1, Insightful)

david@ecsd.com (45841) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732373)

There can be only one!

Re:IMMORTAL! (2, Funny)

grotopotamus (1458573) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732493)

This research brought to you in part by the Umbrella Corporation.

Re:IMMORTAL! (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732541)

immortalized cells aren't just for cancer and vampires, your stem cells are also effectively immortal as well.

Re:IMMORTAL! (1)

eriks (31863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733837)

Well, at least until the body that those stem cells live in dies, that is...

Re:IMMORTAL! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734347)

Until you chop off their heads to gain their power.

Re:IMMORTAL! (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733161)

Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, and the tendency to transform into a zombie when exposed to the light of the full moon.

Re:IMMORTAL! (1)

j235 (734628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734331)

And (seemingly major) mild electrical shock.

Re:IMMORTAL! (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733343)

...the prospect of my bodily fluids interacting with biological material...

Are you sure you didn't mean to type "precious bodily fluids?" [wikipedia.org]

Re:IMMORTAL! (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735021)

I think most /.ers can relate to a man who denys women his essence. although not by choice i'm sure.

Re:IMMORTAL! (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734209)

Don't worry, your liver will simply run around the Scottish countryside lopping off other livers' heads.

Re:IMMORTAL! (2, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734875)

I for one, and this might just be my superstitious self, would be concerned about the prospect of my bodily fluids interacting with biological material that has been, so to speak, "immortalized."

Huh - slashdotters are so supernatural-minded.

What they actually do is get the surviving Beatles to re-form and compose a number 1 hit song about liver cells, hire a Nobel laureate to write a book about them and hang a picture of the donor liver in the Louvre.

Re:IMMORTAL! (1)

DieNadel (550271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735351)

Best comment in this thread!

An artificial liver? (5, Funny)

Trillan (597339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732343)

I'll drink to that!

Re:An artificial liver? (2, Funny)

ibbie (647332) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732429)

Kind of ironic that they're doing the trial in China - now the test subjects can have their very own drunken immortal. :D

Re:An artificial liver? (2, Insightful)

gormanw (1321203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733031)

Let's not forget that iron lungs and dialysis machines started this way. The liver is an amazing organ and has great regenerative properties. However, it can be easily damaged and transplants aren't very successful. It is sad that China, known for organ harvesting, has led the research on this.

Sweet! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732353)

I do believe I'll have another Manhattan!

Waiting for its most stringent test! (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732405)

Spring Break

Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (3, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732417)

Hm, immortal. How is that different from cancerous? And all of the immune cells are really carefully filtered out so there's no potential for graft-vs-host disease if one gets loose in the patient, right?

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (5, Informative)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732733)

Hm, immortal. How is that different from cancerous?

Cell immortality is orthogonal to the abnormal replication present in cancerous cells. There are lots of cells in your body which are effectively immortal but do not undergo abnormal replication, and are therefore not cancerous. [Obvious examples are your spermatogonia and progenitor cells in your bone marrow.]

As far as immune cells go, so long as you've avoided including proliferative immune cells, you should be free from graft vs host issues. Growing the hepatocytes from cell lines that have been sorted pretty much guarantees this.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (2, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732955)

Yes, but the immortal liver cells in this device could very well be cancerous. Isn't the most common method for immortalizing cell lines in the lab to fuse the desired cell with cancer cells to form an immortal hybrid (selecting for the hybrids by both immortality and a genetic marker)?

I think that great care would need to be taken to make sure that the cells never leak into your blood stream. That shouldn't be too hard with the right engineering, but there certainly is some cause for concern.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (4, Informative)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733157)

Yes, but the immortal liver cells in this device could very well be cancerous.

Sure, but they don't have to be. (Car analogy: Ferrari's are often red, but they don't have to be.)

Isn't the most common method for immortalizing cell lines in the lab to fuse the desired cell with cancer cells to form an immortal hybrid (selecting for the hybrids by both immortality and a genetic marker)?

Not really. What you're talking about is a hybridoma, which is generally used in the formation of monoclonal antibodies. As far as what method is actually used to produce the line, it really depends on what you want a cell line for. (Cell lines are immortal by definition, by the way; they don't get immortalized.)

Most common cell lines are actually just isolated from various kinds of tumors, though.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (5, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733307)

It should be noted that the liver cells used in this device are most certainly cancer cells- the HepG2/C3A line was originally grown from a hepatocellular carcinoma cell taken out of a 15-year old boy. You can buy some here [atcc.org] in fact.

Use of these cancer cells in an artificial liver does create the risk of transfer to the patient, but the cells in question will be suspended in a collagen matrix, and is kept separate from the blood by a dialysis-type semipermeable membrane. Contracting cancer from this device requires that the dialysis membrane fail, that cancer cells get out of the collagen and into the filtrate, that the cancer cells are not caught by the dual membrane cell filter, and that once in the body, a cancer cell from a line noted for low tumorigenic potential implants somewhere and begins to form a tumor. Not impossible, but it is unlikely.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733773)

Also very important to note is that anyone who is getting this treatment is going to be seriously ill to begin with, and without it will be dying. I'm sure that they'll consider a chance of getting cancer is a small price to pay.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733861)

And of course, if it really means the difference between life and death, that tiny risk is certainly worth it.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734681)

In addition, the liver is composed of cells that are almost certainly incompatible with the patient ; any stray cells that manage to get through all those formidable layers of physical protection are going to be mercilessly exterminated by even the weakest immune system.

This is the reason for keeping the liver separate from the patient behind a dialysing membrane in the first place - otherwise their immune system will kill it in very short order.

Re:Immortal liver cells want BLOOD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732923)

go away oh wicked closer of technocrat. You aren't welcome here!!

Artifical Liver (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732431)

As a two time kidney transplant recipient myself, I know how hard it is to live with organ failure. I met a guy who had gone through 3 liver transplants, and hepatitis had killed all of them. He is all right now,on his fourth transplant, but something like this can make all the difference in the world to people waiting for a liver. Especially since he had two small daughters.

Re:Artifical Liver (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732467)

Interesting also that this is kind of a hybrid. The outside is artificial but the actual operating cells are normal liver cells.

Makes me wonder about building an artificial heart powered by normal muscle. It would solve the power supply problem.

Re:Artifical Liver (1)

BobisOnlyBob (1438553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732771)

The heart IS a muscle... the trick would be building an artificial heart powered by the body's own nervous energy, or somehow replacing the vulnerable cartilage and passageways of the heart with artificial materials. Besides, a lot of heart issues are with the muscle itself, beginning with arrhythmia and the like. Building an artificial muscle that's powered by the existing bodily systems, now there's a trick and a half.

Re:Artifical Liver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734053)

Powered by nervous energy!?

Re:Artifical Liver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732839)

They already do some operations where they use muscles from the back and wrap them around the existing heart muscle.

Re:Artifical Liver (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733403)

So who is this guy that he's been pushed to the front of the queue waiting for a liver transplant not just once, but three more times?

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) there are currently more than 17,000 people waiting for a liver transplant in the US. And only 5,300 transplant operations per year (2002 data) are being performed.

If hepatitis has, indeed, destroyed each of the multiple donated organs placed into this bozo, it's time for him to step aside and to give someone else a chance to live.

Re:Artifical Liver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26735461)

Jesus, would you please grow up a bit before posting about things you don't understand.

Re:Artifical Liver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26735603)

No, that fuck face is wasting viable organs.

Re:Artifical Liver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26735779)

You will understand, either when you get a major health problem/scare yourself, or just with advancing age.

You are clearly at the point where while you of course intellectually know that you are going to die, you haven't really internalised that knowledge. Unless you die quickly in an accident while still young, you will.

You expect a man, especially one who is the father of two small children, to just quit? To think that the percentage chance of him making use of a transplant is below average, and therefore he should accept his death and leave his children fatherless. Because of a probability??

Bollocks to that, one day you will understand just how deeply the instinct for self-preservation runs in you. It is inhuman to expect someone to make that decision.

now all we need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732459)

is some artificial onions!

Chinese controls (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732471)

A small trial in China showed a statistically and clinically significant difference in 30 day survival with ELAD.

So more people with this ELAD liver replacement were alive at 30 days than a control group, who presumably had their livers removed and replaced with nothing...

Re:Chinese controls (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732581)

It's about time people started doing this research. It's been woefully lacking in the last few decades.

Re:Chinese controls (1)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733499)

a control group, who presumably had their livers removed and replaced with nothing...

It's about time people started doing this research. It's been woefully lacking in the last few decades.

Yeah, ever since Nazi Germany fell, mad science just wasn't what it used to be... *sigh*

Re:Chinese controls (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735757)

AKA Student Dissidents.

"Immortalized"? (3, Insightful)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732519)

Nice way of saying "we're replacing your bad liver cancer with a good liver cancer in this handy take-home plug-in box".

Re:"Immortalized"? (5, Interesting)

spacefiddle (620205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732589)

we're replacing your bad liver cancer with a good liver cancer

Ultimately, as we understand more, i believe the mechanisms of cancer will be more harnessed than eliminated.

Re:"Immortalized"? (1)

Pentagram (40862) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735767)

My understanding of cancer (IANAO and I may not entirely know what I'm talking about here) is that there is no "mechanism" as such -- it's simply uncontrolled cell growth. Generally it occurs when a cell's genes that limit its growth or cause apoptosis get corrupted.

Re:"Immortalized"? (1)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733511)

You know, if you have 30 days to live because of liver failure, I think getting cancer is worth extending that by a few months...

I wanna live forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732543)

"filters blood through a cartridge containing immortalized human liver cells"

Well if they can "immortalize" liver cells, then why can't they immortalized *all* of my cells?

Re:I wanna live forever (1)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732803)

Well if they can "immortalize" liver cells, then why can't they immortalized *all* of my cells?

We could, but you almost certainly wouldn't like the results. (Well, we most likely could do so theoretically; the ethics board would kill us if we tried.)

Death of cells via apoptosis, phagocytosis and sometimes even necrosis is a very important part of normal processes in your body. WIthout them you'd be a continuously expanding ball of flesh (assuming you even made it to a stage of embryogenesis that could be called a "ball of flesh")

Immortals (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732613)

Immortal cells - the deadliest cleansing force in all of Asia. We put their name to the test.

Looks like they found a way to... (1)

Schemat1c (464768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732629)

...save the liver! [hulu.com]

Plumbing for Struldbrugs (4, Interesting)

rlseaman (1420667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732633)

There's no information about the interface of this device to the patient. Blood flow to the liver is rather unique (http://biology.about.com/library/organs/bldigestliver.htm [about.com] ), with 3/4 of its bloodflow coming from the portal vein and 1/4 from the hepatic artery. The blood mixes before being processed by the liver.

Is the device similarly fed by both arterial and venous sources? How is the pressure compensated? Where is the output reintroduced? Does the device run in parallel to the natural liver or in series? If the latter, which receives the blood first? Does it attempt to handle any of the other numerous functions of the liver such as the creation of bile or lymph?

Re:Plumbing for Struldbrugs (4, Informative)

Spikeles (972972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733821)

They don't touch the liver. It just takes plasma from your blood, pumps it through the filters and then returns it. Bunch of diagrams and pictures here [brown.edu] , here [vitaltherapies.com] and here [asaio.com]

Re:Plumbing for Struldbrugs (1)

rlseaman (1420667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734081)

Thanks for the references! Fascinating.

They might be missing something in the fundamental architecture. The point of the exercise is to diminish the load on the liver to permit it to heal (at least to gain time). By tapping into the circulatory system at some point remote from the ailing organ, they are relying on matching the impedance (as it were) of the entire somatic beast. If, instead, they more closely seek to localize the interface and to mimic the equilibrium load on the natural organ, the liver may be given more of a respite.

As with other differential rate equations, if the liver can heal just a little bit faster - perhaps even if the patient on the whole becomes a little bit sicker - the net gain may be very significant.

In general, the goal must be to develop the capability of providing the full functionality of each organ in enough fidelity to freely swap artificial life support in and out at will. As such, the interfaces must be honored in full detail. It isn't enough to imitate a liver, one seeks to replicate a liver, including its natural configuration within the human system architecture.

Re:Plumbing for Struldbrugs (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733915)

I wish I mad mod points just so I could +1 this for the Niven reference.

For the US market, they're offering a range.... (1, Funny)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732645)

The product line itself will vary in capability and price. From the basic "Joe Sixpack" model, you can move up to the "Jazz Musician". If you've got enough money you can go all the way up to the full "Kieth Richards" model.

A longer term solution... (4, Funny)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732665)

I think I'd just ask if they could immortalize all of my body's cells.

Re:A longer term solution... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732999)

Sure, it's called "cancer".

Re:A longer term solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734343)

We sure can! Starting with your fat cells.

Some background (5, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732685)

Some background on why an artificial liver is a really big deal, and why it has been really hard until now to produce one:

(Any doctors or biologists more knowledgeable can fill in the gaps and correct me)

The liver breaks down toxins in the blood by metabolizing them. That is, they get broken down into simpler compounds by chemical reactions that take place in and around living cells. Contrast this with dialysis - an artificial kidney - which is able to work by filtering out chemicals based on molecular weight. Dialysis uses bundles of membranes that allow relatively light molecules (such as water) to pass through, but block heavier ones. The stuff the liver breaks down are too unwieldy or complex to be filtered out based just on weight - there are lots of other, good things in the blood that are of similar weight or complexity. A simple filter can't distinguish them; hepatocytes (liver cell clusters) can.

The task of creating the filtering membrane of a dialysis machine is a relatively well understood materials and processing problem. An artificial liver, which usually has a mini dialysis unit on the front or back end, also requires you to have living clusters of cells, and keep them alive, nourished, and healthy long enough for them to do some effective and therapeutic blood filtering. That's a much trickier biological problem, and we are only now getting decent at it.

The uses for a bio-artificial liver is huge. It can help people with chronic liver failure live longer and healthier lives, true, but it has more uses than that. The liver, as it turns out, is one of the few organs that can regenerate itself. If it is damaged by disease or some toxic insult, it is possible for it to repair itself if given the chance (in normally healthy people - the liver can also be damaged beyond repair). The problem is that in lots of cases the patient will die before the liver gets a chance to heal, leaving two options: hope for a liver transplant on really short notice, or die. A device like this can be a bridge to transplant or, in some cases, take the burden off the liver long enough for it to heal itself.

A tutorial on the liver, etc. (5, Informative)

az-saguaro (1231754) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733913)

See also the comments above by rlseaman - this will address those as well.

The liver has multiple functions for both biochemical synthesis and detoxification. Unlike most organs and tissues, it has two circulatory inflows. The arterial circulation is the nutritive blood supply, just as the arterial circulation for any tissue. A portal circulation is one in which the venous effluent from a tissue does not return directly to the systemic circulation, but instead detours through another organ first. There are two portal circulations in most chordates - the hypothalamic-pituitary circulation, and the splanchnic portal system. The purpose of the splanchnic portal is to take raw digestate absorbed from the gut, and pass it through a chemical filter (the liver) which will detoxify or eliminate nasty exogenous compounds before they get back into the general circulation (via the hepatic veins). The hepatic artery supplies the liver; the portal vein is the business of the liver. Detoxified products that must be eliminated from the body are excreted into the bile, which is eliminated through the gut. Without a liver at all, death will occur within just a few days, about 3-7.

Renal failure is also lethal, but in the early 1950's, technologies were developed to keep renal failure patients alive - the dialysis machine. Dialysis is used as a bridge to organ transplantation, but for many people it is their permanent replacement kidney. It is an extraordinarily effective device. It could be "perfected" "back then" because the dialysis machine and the kidney are both relatively simple machines when it comes the elimination / detoxification aspects of its function. It depends simply on diffusion across semi-permeable membranes so that chemical concentrations can be equilibrated. No cells nor other active function is needed.

Compare this to heart function. We can transplant hearts quite successfully, but unlike the kidney, we cannot keep people alive without their native heart. Attempts in the past 10-20 years to develop mechanical bridge devices have all been technical, medical, and ethical failures, awaiting some future technologies to make the concept truly feasible.

The liver is in between. With regard to basic medical and ethical issues, an artificial liver should be comparable to the kidney. But technically and scientifically, making an artificial liver has been impossible until recently. Unlike the kidney, emulating liver function cannot be done by simple passive dialysis - the liver has MANY active chemical processes that must be actively metabolized. Attempts to run a patient's blood through a pig liver was the best available technology, and it doesn't work well at all, certainly not long term. What these researchers have done in this article is to mate living human cells to a dialysis device.

From the company's description of the product, it sounds like a fairly standard dialysis cartridge to start with. The key element, something that was NOT technically possible until the biotech revolution that we are now going through, is to put living cells in the device. I presume that the dialysis membranes are much more "porous" than renal dialysis membranes, allowing bigger molecules to get across, but hepatocytes remain sequestered on their side - there is no chance of "mixing and migration". All modern biotech "living cell" products go through ELABORATE testing and purification to get clean single cell lines. "Immortalized" means they have had their genome switched on so that they can mitose and replicate ad infinitum, without reaching the natural limits of mitosis that many differentiated cell lines have. Bile ducts, portal veins, and all that are not needed, because wastes come in through your normal arterio-venous dialysis shunt, and go out in the dialysis effluent. Because the device is not directly siphoning splanchnic blood, the clearance of potential dietary "toxins" is slower, but any patient with advanced liver disease has to make certain dietary adjustments anyway.

This is really a technical tour de force, worth following. Whether their device proves to be successful or not, it sounds like they have picked up on the right technologies. This is no small feat, not just the basic bio-engineering, but also because of a very complex distribution and delivery system. A kidney dialyzer is a piece of plastic that can be stocked and shelved forever. A living gizmo (and there are newer living cell therapies and devices appearing every year in the past few years) has to be delivered "just in time", and has only a small window of viability, measured in just a few days. The goal of all of this is to develop therapies that, just like kidney dialysis, can be a long term artificial organ, not just a short term bridge to transplantation. Sadly, this technology may be extravagantly expensive, at least in the short run. The basic economics of medicine, at least in the USA, are that aging baby boomers are going to overburden medical expenditures. Liver dialysis, liver transplants, and all of that may become harder to access. Hopefully not, but a technology like this may have to wait another generation, another 25 years or so, to become mainstream - enough time hopefully to "perfect" and economize this promising technology.

Re:A tutorial on the liver, etc. (1)

Shihar (153932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735261)

Out of curiosity, what is the great challenge in producing an artificial heart? It would seem to me that sloshing some blood around to a regular rhythm in something blandly neutral to your body would be among the easiest of challenges.

Re:Some background (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734019)

My mother has lived with Cirrhosis of liver for past decade(caused by a bad doctor prescribing painkillers for 6 months instead of proper diagnosis).
This artificial liver could help her IF her body could accept it.
Problem is FDA has a knack of approving stuff before it is really ready for real world. FDA is owned by pharma companies.

Re:Some background (1)

Samah (729132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734061)

If it is damaged by disease or some toxic insult, it is possible for it to repair itself...

Hey liver, yo' momma's so fat, she's immortal!

I fo one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732711)

I for one bow down to our great fatty liver overlords.

Now there is no reason not to blow out your liver with copius amounts of daily alcohol intake!

Thank you great liver maker!

Pubs (0)

cyriustek (851451) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732779)

Clearly the usual joke is how business in the pubs will increase due to this. However, I think there may be some truth to the joke.

Often times those with drinking habits/problems look for excuses as to why it is ok for them to drink. Some use silly rules such as I only drink after 5pm, others say they only binge on the weekends, and others say they are going to die anyway.

Depending on how this is reported, we may begin to see people lower their inhibition, or at a minimum be willing to take more chances with drinking, and use this as their enabler.

On the bright side, this is really cool stuff, and it is nice to see that lives may be able to be saved.

call your senator (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732959)

call your senator
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm [senate.gov]

This is how Rush Limbaugh rules, this is how he falls. Do not email, but call.

Cure for hemophilia... (1, Offtopic)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733015)

albeit a not so pretty one...

Currently hemophiliacs must give themselves a shot in order to obtain the factor 8 they need to complete the factor chain and make a clot.

In an extreme accident where a person couldn't be able to give themselves the medicine immediately, the chances for survival drop greatly.

Knowing that they could walk around like a normal person would be a god-send to these people.

Never compete with bacon (2, Funny)

rhinokitty (962485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733101)

Oi, the fake bacon kicks ass. The fake liver can't hold a candle to it, I don't care how many fiber tubes it contains.

Immortalized (0, Redundant)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733131)

If they can immortalize liver, why can't they immortalize the rest of me?

Sanryobuki! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733361)

Tomorrow has made a phone call to today.

http://m.assetbar.com/achewood/uuafPSX9l

immortalized cells? (1)

sleigher (961421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733385)

You guys think I can get them to immortalize the rest of my cells?

just asking......

The FDA is NOT testing this... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733459)

The FDA is only a regulatory body...this test is being run by Vital Therapies Inc along with a wide range of hospitals and research organizations

Not the FDA...know the basics...

"Small trial in China" actually means (5, Interesting)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733509)

"we didn't want to worry about medical ethics"

A toast (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733589)

Christopher Hitchens will be so relieved.

FDA invades China!!! (1)

purpleraison (1042004) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733685)

Ok, seriously, the FDA is using material research from China? Whatever happened to the US doing it's own research?

Say, I wonder if the FDA has contracted human cancer trials in Darfur.

Seriously, human rights anyone?

Stop-gap (1)

Lorienthin (1439867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734027)

I'd say offhand that this is a relatively impressive stop-gap for those on the transplant list. Thirty extra days could easily save lives, especially of those in advanced liver failure. Should be interesting to see if they can extend the duration. Though, it may be too little to late for some, as TFA states that there is almost a 5:1 ratio of deaths to transplants. Maybe it just doesn't matter if they survive a month more, there might just not be a transplant waiting even then.

funding (2, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734063)

Surprisingly, it was revealed that funding for liver replacement research was provided entirely by the liquor industry.

Now the guy at Mickey Mantle's press conference (2, Funny)

vandelais (164490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734113)

who asked the transplant surgeon if the donor was still alive, to which the surgeon replied

"You're a sportswriter, aren't you?"

won't feel like such a roob anymore.

"Immortalized"? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734251)

..containing immortalized human liver cells..

I, for one, welcome our new zombified-liver-cell overlords!

Important advancement (1)

The Tomer (4213) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734883)

Just one question:
How long will it be before I can take out my liver and replace it with an alcohol resistent one?

2009... (1)

Bootarn (970788) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734899)

...the year of the cyborgs!

Why this could be a big deal. (1)

ilo.v (1445373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735633)

There are two major reasons why a "liver dialysis" machine would be a major advance, even if you can only get it working for 30 days:

1) The liver regenerates. Unlike heart, brain, kidney, etc., if you whack out half the liver (to donate to someone else for example) it will eventually grow back. A lot of the tragic cases of liver failure are from a temporary insult (tylenol overdose, poisoning, etc.) If you can just keep them alive long enough, it will grow back. Currently these patients are treated with a liver transplant. This means they are doomed to a lifetime of immunosupression and complications just because they needed a liver for a month after the tylenol overdose

2) Some countries (Japan for example) do not recognize the concept of brain death, only "cardiac death." This means that liver transplants are impossible, because if you unplug the life support and wait for the heart to fully stop beating, the liver is usually too damaged to be useful. These countries desperately need "liver dialysis" because there is no alternative treatment.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?