The British-built device, set on wheels and the size of a supermarket trolley, can keep a donor liver alive for 24 hours or more at body temperature.
As well as preserving the organ, it helps damaged tissue repair itself. Doctors believe the machine, which could be ready to market in Europe next year, has the potential to double the number of livers available for transplant. Modified versions of the device may also assist transplants of other organs, including kidneys and lungs, and provide a tool for testing the toxicity of new medicines.
Two patients are currently recovering well after taking part in a pilot trial to test the machine at London’s King’s College Hospital, Europe’s biggest organ transplant centre.
Professor Constantin Coussios, co-inventor of the machine of Oxford University, said: “These first clinical cases confirm we can support human livers outside the body – keep them alive and functioning.”