Liver Defatting: An Alternative Approach to Enable Steatotic Liver Transplantation


Martin L. Yarmush,


Macrovesicular steatosis in greater than 30% of hepatocytes is a significant risk factor for primary graft nonfunction due to increased sensitivity to ischemia reperfusion (I/R) injury. The growing prevalence of hepatic steatosis due to the obesity epidemic, in conjunction with an aging population, may negatively impact the availability of suitable deceased liver donors. Some have suggested that metabolic interventions could decrease the fat content of liver grafts prior to transplantation. This concept has been successfully tested through nutritional supplementation in a few living donors. Utilization of deceased donor livers, however, requires defatting of explanted organs. Animal studies suggest that this can be accomplished by ex vivo warm perfusion in a time scale of a few hours. We estimate that this approach could significantly boost the size of the donor pool by increasing the utilization of steatotic livers. Here we review current knowledge on the mechanisms whereby excessive lipid storage and macrosteatosis exacerbate hepatic I/R injury, and possible approaches to address this problem, including ex vivo perfusion methods as well as metabolically induced defatting. We also discuss the challenges ahead that need to be addressed for clinical implementation.