Laser device tests donated liver suitability

A non-invasive technique has been developed to allow more accurate assessment of livers available for transplant, British researchers have announced.

Currently, the quality of a donated liver is measured by visual inspection which is "highly dependent on the surgeon’s experience", say Mr Gabriel Oniscu, of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and colleagues.

Their study was published yesterday (18 May) in Hepatology. They report on their new method involving a handheld Raman spectroscopy, a laser-based tool for analysing biomolecular composition.

They tested the technique on pigs’ livers, which are anatomically similar to those of humans, and found that it could successfully detect damage.

"Raman spectroscopy is an effective tool for detecting microvascular damage which could assist the decision to use marginal livers for transplantation," they write. "Reducing the volume of circulating blood before circulatory arrest in donation after circulatory death may help reduce microvascular damage."

Mr Oniscu said: “Technologies, such as normothermic regional perfusion, together with non-invasive real time assessment methods, are a real game changer that will allow surgeons to gain a better understanding of organ function prior to transplantation.”

Co-author Dr Katherine Ember added: “We found that we could detect liver damage in a way that simply relies on shining a laser at liver tissue and collecting the light scattered back. We didn’t expect to find such a clear difference in Raman signal between damaged and undamaged liver tissue.

“It’s very exciting and will be fascinating to see whether this technology can be brought successfully into a clinical setting. This could enable liver damage to be detected early in the transplant procedure, allowing more livers to be transplanted safely and effectively.”

Ember, K. J. I. et al. Non-invasive detection of ischemic vascular damage in a pig model of liver donation after circulatory death. Hepatology 18 May 2021; doi: 10.1002/hep.31701


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