Grifols to develop Fundació Clínic device designed to increase the viability of livers for transplant


Grifols to develop and manufacture new device to preserve livers for transplant (normothermic hepatic perfusion device) patented by Fundació Clínic. Based on the preservation of livers for transplant under conditions similar to those found in the body, the new conservation method will make it possible to use three quarters of the organs which are currently rejected due to damage as the result of cryopreservation.

The normothermic hepatic perfusion device designed by the research team led by Dr. Constantino Fondevila, senior specialist with the General and Digestive Surgery Service at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona and researcher with the Biomedical Research Centre Network for Liver and Digestive Disorders (CIBERehd), could become the first significant advance in the conservation of tissues between donation and transplantation in over 20 years.

The device includes a sophisticated system of sensors which analyze the functional state of the liver and can even administer cytoprotectants to optimize the conditions of the organ. Results with animals have shown that the device improves the ex vivo conditions of organs and enables the use of livers which would not be suitable for transplant using traditional conservation methods.

The agreement signed between Grifols and the Fundació Clinic will facilitate the development of a device for use with human livers, and creates a public-private cooperation framework to be developed in four phases: Firstly, bioengineering studies to adapt the device for human use. Secondly, studies using laboratory animals will be conducted, opening the way for clinical trials. Finally, the device will be analyzed with organs which have been rejected for human transplant, prior to being tested in real transplants subject to full safety guarantees.

The extensive experience and know-how of both parties offer encouraging prospects for improvements to liver transplant procedures, and reflects Grifols' interest in exploring new opportunities for research cooperation. Grifols is already involved with promoting and funding various clinical research projects in the field of hepatology, including the European Consortium for the Study of Chronic Liver Failure.

Spanish R&D to increase the number of viable livers for transplant

Waiting lists for liver transplants are rising everywhere, including Spain, despite its having Europe's highest rate of donations (39 per million inhabitants). This device is the fruit of the long-standing interest of the staff of the General and Digestive Surgery Service at the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, led by Professor Juan C. García-Valdecasas, in making the best possible use of organs available for transplant. After conducting preliminary research, Dr. Constantino Fondevila set up a project in 2005, with funding from Spain's Ministry of Health, to identify how the device would work and the technical requirements. The successful development of this device would therefore be an example of the social benefits of public investment in research.