ad info




CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
 SPACE
* HEALTH
 AIDS
 Aging
 Alternative
 Cancer
 Children
 Diet & Fitness
 Men
 Women
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 ARTS & STYLE
 NATURE
 IN-DEPTH
 ANALYSIS
 myCNN

 Headline News brief
 news quiz
 daily almanac

  MULTIMEDIA:
 video
 video archive
 audio
 multimedia showcase
 more services

  E-MAIL:
Subscribe to one of our news e-mail lists.
Enter your address:
Or:
Get a free e-mail account

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 AsiaNow
 En Español
 Em Português
 Svenska
 Norge
 Danmark
 Italian

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 TIME INC. SITES:
 CNN NETWORKS:
Networks image
 more networks
 transcripts

 SITE INFO:
 help
 contents
 search
 ad info
 jobs

 WEB SERVICES:

  health > story pageAIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Doctors look for liver transplant alternatives

pig
This pig's liver was used to keep Pennington alive until a human donor could be found  

October 3, 1999
Web posted at: 12:37 p.m. EDT (1637 GMT)


In this story:

Pig liver used as a filter

No replacement yet for human livers

Procedure gets some patients off transplant list

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



From Medical Correspondent
Rhonda Rowland

DALLAS (CNN) -- Robert Pennington believes he's alive today because of a pig that his family calls Wilbur.

The 19-year-old suffers from liver disease. His name was put on a transplant waiting list, but no livers were available.

 VIDEO
CNN's Ronda Rowland describes the use of pig livers for those needing liver transplants
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

Then Dr. Marlon Levy, a transplant surgeon at Baylor University Medical Center, offered an alternative: a procedure using a dead pig's liver.

But not a liver from an ordinary pig.

"They're genetically modified to try to prevent a reaction between the human blood and the pig liver," Levy said.

Pig liver used as a filter

hospital photo
The patient's blood is filtered through a pig's liver  

Pennington didn't actually have the pig's liver transplanted into his body. Instead, his blood was run through the pig's liver in a procedure called xenoperfusion.

A tube was placed in a vein in Pennington's leg, and his blood was siphoned through a pump. The blood was heated, oxygen was added, then the blood was filtered through the pig's liver and returned to Pennington's body.

"I think it's impossible to say whether they would have lived long enough to receive their liver (transplant) had we not had this bridging technology," Levy said. "But I'd like to think that made the absolute difference in their survival."

No replacement yet for human livers

The pig liver was used to temporarily keep Pennington alive until a human liver became available, but surgeons at Baylor hope to one day transplant pig livers into humans. There is concern, though, that humans could pick up a virus from pigs.

"We need to have animals genetically altered to the point where we believe we do not see an immune response of that dangerous kind," said Dr. Goran Klintmalm, director of transplantation at Baylor University.

"The promise of xenotransplants has been around for many years, and still has not been fulfilled," said Dr. Achilles Demetriou of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "My guess is it will not be fulfilled in the immediate future."

Bioartificial liver also gives patients hope

Demetriou has been working on a device he calls a bioartificial liver. It would use cells from pig livers to remove toxins in a technique similar to kidney dialysis.

After sudden liver failure due to medication poisoning, Molly Koch was put on the device for two days until a human liver became available.

"I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for the machine," Koch said.

Doctors at Cedars-Sinai have used the machine on 26 patients, and 23 still are alive. Demetriou said there was an unexpected bonus.

"We did find in about six patients when we kept them alive for several days, their liver recovered spontaneously so they actually got better without the need for a transplant," Demetriou said.

Last year in the United States, there were more than 13,000 people on waiting lists to receive liver transplants. Fewer than 5,000 received new livers; many others died while waiting.

Many doctors believe that even if more donors become available, the real solution to ending the organ shortage is animal-to-human transplants. And they believe success stories like Pennington's and Koch's indicate that could become a reality in the next decade.



RELATED STORIES:
Baboon liver passes virus to man
Baboon marrow patient better, though treatment 'failed'
New rules proposed for animal-to-human transplants
Activists clash over AIDS research vs. animal rights

RELATED SITES:
Children's Liver Alliance Inc.
Organ Transplant HomePage: The Only Place On The Web With Patient Waiting Times
Transplant Programs
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

LATEST HEALTH STORIES:
China SARS numbers pass 5,000
Report: Form of HIV in humans by 1940
Fewer infections for back-sleeping babies
Pneumonia vaccine may help heart, too
 LATEST HEADLINES:
SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.