£700,000 to build liver dialysis machine
22 August 2007
Dr Rajiv Jalan and Dr Nathan Davies of the Institute of Hepatology at UCL have won a total £700,000 from the Department of Health and dialysis-systems company Gambro to build a liver dialysis machine.
Dr Jalan and Dr Davies have already designed the system, following a five-year collaboration with Gambro to investigate and trial dialysis-based treatments in UCL Hospitals.
The new concept reflects research by Dr Jalan's team. The team discovered that albumin, a protein in blood plasma, is damaged irreversibly in patients with liver failure. This damage reduces patients' ability to flush toxins from their systems.
Secondly, studies by the team published online last week in the journal 'Hepatology' showed that in liver failure, bacterial products accumulate and disrupt the workings of the blood cells that act as the body's early defence mechanism against infection. The team also showed that the removal of these bacterial products restores the immune function. The finding is significant as infection is the most common cause of death among liver failure patients.
The new dialysis system will therefore have two elements: it will enrich patients' plasma with albumin and remove bacterial products to restore patients' immune systems. The team worked with UCL Business to patent the design.
"Dialysis - the filtering of blood - is established as a way of treating kidney failure. Over the past 40 years, investigators have tried to develop a liver support device using dialysis because the liver is very important for detoxification. We hope our novel design will make ours the first system to be incorporated into clinical practice," said Dr Jalan.
"Around one million people around the world die from liver failure every year, with between 10,000 and 20,000 of them in the UK alone. Liver transplantation is the only treatment known to improve patients' survival, but there is very limited access to it. The system we will build has the potential to make a significant difference to the survival rates of patients with liver failure."
Work on the machine will start in October 2007 at UCL and Germany, where Gambro is based, and continue over the next three years.
The Institute of Hepatology at UCL was established in 1996 as a world-class centre for basic and translational research. Its staff has made major breakthroughs in the understanding of liver failure, and its research and teaching programmes are closely integrated with the clinical work in liver disease in UCL Hospital.
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The Institute of Hepatology at UCL