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Artificial liver trials show progress, as transplant candidates wait

BERLIN Four years after the first American clinical trial of an experimental artificial liver system began at the University of Michigan Health System, its leader says he is encouraged by the results thus far. And, he's optimistic about the system's potential to help more liver-failure patients stay alive until they receive a liver transplant, or recover without a transplant.

Already, says Robert Bartlett, M.D., 20 desperately ill patients at the U-M Health System have used the device in a phase I trial. Six patients went on to receive a transplant, three of whom are still alive. Two other patients recovered liver function without needing a transplant. Data on the first nine U-M patients were published last August in the journal Surgery; Bartlett discussed the full group at a meeting this week in Germany.

Results from Germany, where the system was invented, and from the three other American hospitals now testing it, also give Bartlett hope. In all, the system appears safe, able to reduce blood toxins, and able to reverse coma and shock.

The system, called albumin dialysis, uses special filters and proteins to remove toxic substances from the blood while sparing helpful compounds.

Bartlett spoke about the status of the albumin dialysis approach to liver support in the keynote and summary addresses at the Fourth International Symposium on Albumin Dialysis in Liver Disease this week in Rostock, Germany.

"Current and future clinical trials will help further establish how well albumin dialysis might help buy time for the 17,400 Americans now waiting for a liver transplant, and the tens of thousands more on waiting lists worldwide," says Bartlett, who is a professor of surgery, director of critical care and head of the extracorporeal life support team at UMHS.

"We must also explore whether the system can help patients regain function in their own livers, as two of our patients did," he continues. "Currently, we are using
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
6-Sep-2002


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