Some human livers are more resilient than others, lasting more than 100 cumulative years between the original host of the organ and the recipient of a transplant, a new study finds.
Understanding what makes these livers so resilient could improve the donor supply, paving the way for greater use of livers from older donors, the researchers said.
“We tended to avoid using older donor livers,” said study co-author Dr. Christine Hwang, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern (UT Southwestern) Medical Center, in Dallas. “If we can figure out what’s so special about these donors, we could potentially have more livers available for transplant and have good outcomes.”
As of mid-September, there were more than 11,000 US patients on the liver transplant waiting list, the study authors noted.
In the study, the researchers used data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to identify livers that were at least 100 years old, taking into account the starting age of the organ in the study.
Of more than 253,000 livers transplanted between 1990 and 2022, the researchers identified 25 of these “centennial” livers.
The average donor age was significantly higher among these durable livers, about 85 years old, compared with about 39 years among livers that were not centenarians, the researchers reported. The donors also had a lower incidence of diabetes and fewer infections.
Livers are incredibly resilient organs
Centennial livers also benefited from the best donors and recipients. The donated livers had lower levels of enzymes that can cause transplant problems, while the recipients had significantly lower scores on a scale that measures the urgency of their need for a transplant.
The findings are scheduled to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons, in San Diego.
“Livers are incredibly resilient organs,” lead researcher Yash Kadakia, a medical student at UT Southwestern Medical School, said in a meeting news release. “We use older donors, we have better surgical techniques, we have advances in immunosuppression, and we have a better match between donor and recipient factors. All of these things allow us to have better outcomes.”
Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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