University of Wisconsin solution greatly lengthens the time liver storage is possible compared with all previous solutions used. To test whether this improvement is related to better preservation of the endothelial cell, which is thought to be the most vulnerable cell type in cold storage, we compared time-related ultrastructural changes in rat livers stored in this solution or in Euro-Collins solution. Rat livers were harvested after combined arterial and portal perfusion with the cold-storage solution. They were then preserved for different lengths of time in the same solution at 4° C before being perfusion-fixed and processed for light and electron microscopy. The first preservation damage was noted in endothelial cells; the time course of the lesions was similar in both solutions. After 2 hr of storage, enlarged and ruptured fenestrae with many gaps were observed. Swollen at 4 hr, the endothelial cells became stringlike at 10 hr, leading to stripped sinusoidal walls. Hepatocytes appeared better preserved in University of Wisconsin solution. The amount of glycogen, maintained near the control level at 24 hr in the latter, decreased dramatically between 0 and 4 hr in Euro-Collins solution, as ultrastructurally observed and biochemically confirmed. Furthermore, sinusoidal obstruction by blebs originating from the hepatocytes and quantified by image analysis on electron micrographs was markedly delayed. It was significantly less pronounced in University of Wisconsin solution at 24 hr than in Euro-Collins solution at 2 hr (p ≤ 0.05). Our findings confirm that endothelial cells are highly susceptible to preservation damage and show that University of Wisconsin solution does not improve preservation during storage. It is therefore suggested that protection is in part due to a lesser degree of microcirculatory disturbance by blebs stemming from hepatocytes. In addition, endothelial cell structure after preservation does not seem to be a reliable parameter for predicting graft outcome. (HEPATOLOGY 1991;13:1173–1180.)
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