Clinical extracorporeal hybrid liver support – phase I study with primary porcine liver cells


Address reprint requests to Dr Igor M. Sauer, Klinik für Allgemein-, Visceral- und Transplantationschirurgie Charité– Campus Virchow, Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin (E-mail:


Abstract: The objective of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and safety of a hybrid liver support system with extracorporeal plasma separation and bioreactor perfusion in patients with acute liver failure (ALF) who had already fulfilled the criteria for high urgency liver transplantation (LTx). Eight patients (one male, seven female) were treated in terms of bridging to transplantation. The mean age was 36.5 yr (range 20 to 58). Etiology of liver failure was drug-related in two patients, hepatitis B infection in three patients, and unknown for three patients. The bioreactors were charged with primary liver cells from specific pathogen-free pigs. Cell viability varied between 91 and 98%. Continuous liver support treatment over a period of 8 to 46 h (mean 27.3 h) was safely performed and well-tolerated by all patients. No complications associated with the therapy were observed during the follow-up period. Thrombocytopenia was considered to be an effect of the plasma separation. Subsequently, all patients were transplanted successfully and were observed over at least 3 yr with an organ and patient survival rate of 100%. Screening of patient's sera for antibodies specific for porcine endogenous retroviruses (PERVs) showed no reactivity – either prior to application of the system, or after extracorporeal treatment. The results encourage us to continue the development of the technology, and further studies appear to be justified. The bioreactor technology has been integrated into a modular extracorporeal liver support (MELS) system, combining biologic liver support with artificial detoxification technology.