Innovative research in liver transplant

Mayo researchers actively study new diagnostic tests and potential treatment options for people with liver failure, including liver transplant and other therapies.

Researchers study many areas of liver regeneration. A portion of a liver can regenerate and grow back to its normal size, so it may be possible to use a portion of a liver from a living or deceased donor in a liver transplant.

Researchers also study potential ways of using stem cell therapy, or regenerative medicine, to treat liver failure and liver diseases. Researchers study how reprogrammed stem cells can be turned into specialized cells that can replace, repair or regenerate diseased liver cells.

Researchers are developing a bioartificial liver, a device that uses regenerated liver cells to replace the liver function in people who have acute liver failure. The bioartificial liver potentially may be used before a liver transplant to support liver function until a liver transplant is available, or to give the recipient's liver time to recover its function. However, the bioartificial liver requires a large number of regenerated liver cells, and it's difficult to grow enough human liver cells for the device in a laboratory. Researchers are studying the potential of regenerating liver cells in pigs and mice, to grow enough cells to be used in the device.

Mayo Clinic researchers originally proposed, designed and tested the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD). The MELD system prioritizes people waiting for a transplant based on the severity of their condition and how urgently they may need a transplant.