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Keeping the liver healthy is extremely important, since a diseased liver may require a transplant, a complicated, risky process that may necessitate being on a wait list. To stay on top of liver health, individuals should get liver panel tests regularly. However, individuals who do find themselves in need of a new liver may be happy to know that researchers from Padova University in Italy have found that an antioxidant may be able to help boost donated liver survival rates.
Scientists found that if the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is injected before a donated liver is harvested, the graft success rate is significantly improved.
Better survival rates save lives
According to the researchers, a 2010 report from the World Health Organization showed that there were 22,000 liver transplants performed worldwide, with nearly 18,500 from deceased donors. Furthermore, there are 16,000 individuals in the U.S. who are currently waiting to receive a new liver.
The scientists explained that ischemia-reperfusion injury occurs when blood supply returns to the liver after lack of oxygen. This happens often during storage and preservation of donated livers, which may impact the success of the function.
To combat this issue, researchers gave 140 organs to individuals waiting for a liver transplant. One group of these participants received livers that had been injected with NAC one hour prior to liver procurement, while the other did not. The scientists found that graft survival rates were 93 percent at three months and 90 percent at 12 months in the NAC group, while the rates for those in the control group were 82 percent at three months and 70 percent at one year.
Furthermore, post-transplant complication rates were 23 percent for the NAC group and 51 percent in the control group.
"Our study was the first randomized trial to investigate the use of NAC antioxidant infusion during the liver procurement procedure. We propose that NAC be used during organ harvesting to improve liver transplantation outcomes, particularly with the increased use of suboptimal organs. NAC has a good safety profile and the very low cost per patient, make this protocol highly cost-effective in consideration of grafts survival, length of hospital stays and post operative complications," said researcher Francesco D'Amico, Ph.D.
The researcher added that he and his fellow scientists are also planning on seeing if injecting other organs with NAC could have similar outcomes to their liver study. This could change the whole way that organ transplants are conducted, which is important for the millions of individuals waiting to receive new organs.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a person is added to the organ donation waiting list every 10 minutes. An average of 18 people die each day while waiting for an organ. The statistics also show that five years following a liver transplant, 73.8 percent of patients are still alive.
One of the ways that people can avoid eventually needing a liver transplant is to regularly get liver panel tests that will help show if there are any issues developing with this organ. Furthermore, people may also want to utilize STD testing services that can help determine whether they hepatitis C, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause serious damage to the liver and potentially lead to the need of a transplant if it is not caught in the early stages. STD testing kits and lab tests can help people catch this and other liver diseases as early as possible when they are most treatable.
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