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Trial Begins For First Artificial Liver Device Using Human Cells

Physicians at the University of Chicago Hospitals are beginning clinical testing of the first artificial liver device that uses cells from humans rather than from pigs. The ELAD (Extracorporeal Liver Assist Device), produced by VitaGen Incorporated of La Jolla, California, is designed to serve as a temporary liver for patients with acute liver failure, keeping them alive until their own organ can recover or until a suitable organ becomes available for transplantation.

As the pilot center for the first controlled trial of the device, the University of Chicago is the only hospital in the world currently able to offer this treatment. This study will determine the safety and efficacy of the device.

"Several previous devices containing liver cells from pigs have produced encouraging results," said Michael Millis, M.D., associate professor of surgery and director of the liver transplant program at the University of Chicago Hospitals, "but there has been a good deal of concern about exposing patients to animal cells, which may function slightly differently and could harbor infectious agents. This trial should determine whether a device that incorporates human rather than pig-liver cells can reduce those risks and perhaps function more like a normal human organ."

A second advantage is that this device can be used continuously by changing the cartridges every few hours. The artifical liver devices containing pig cells can be used for no more than six to eight hours each day.

The study will involve patients with fulminant hepatic failure (FHF), a rapidly worsening liver dysfunction that primarily occurs in young, healthy people
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Contact: John Easton
jeaston@mcis.bsd.uchicago.edu
773-702-6241
University of Chicago Medical Center
5-Apr-1999


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