It is well known that the liver has the ability to regenerate. Liver resection (surgical removal of the diseased part of the liver) for the treatment of liver cancer has been carried out for a few decades, but many tumors are inoperable, notably because the removal of a too large piece of liver is fatal.
The Wyss Zurich project will develop a novel therapeutic strategy for liver regeneration consisting of: i) surgical resection of a small healthy piece of the liver from the patient; ii) growth of this piece outside of the body in a perfusion machine until a sufficient size is reached; iii) retransplantation of the regenerated liver to the original patient while removing the remaining diseased part. Current perfusion systems are not able to keep a liver alive outside of the body for a sufficient time to allow growth and regeneration to occur. The challenging aim of the project is to extend the viability of liver tissue outside of the body up to five days and allow its growth. To this end, a perfusion machine will be developed, which will provide necessary nutrients and oxygen supply, and be equipped to monitor growth, as well as assess the functional capacity of the liver.
This technological advance will allow patients with formerly inoperable liver cancers to gain access to surgical resection. Additionally, performing autologous transplantation (patient receives liver tissue from his own body) will avoid the need for life-long immunosuppression and its associated severe side effects. This novel regeneration strategy could also be used in allogenic liver transplantation (patient receives liver tissue from a donor) for end-stage chronic liver disease, where an organ transplant is the only treatment option. In this second approach, a healthy donor liver will be split into a couple of parts that will be grown in the perfusion machine, yielding more than one transplantable organ. With this approach, the organ donor pool would be increased, which would help to alleviate current donor organ shortage.
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Max L. Hefti
Co-Project Leader and Product Engineer
Max Hefti works on the development of the perfusion system for the extracorporeal liver. Before joining the project in December 2016, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow on the development and optimization of adsorption processes. For his work in the same field, he received his doctoral degree from ETH Zurich in 2016. He holds a Master in Bio- and Chemical Engineering at ETH Zurich and was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in NYC, USA.
Co-Project Leader & Engineer
As a postdoctoral fellow, Martin worked recently in the field of renewable energies and geothermal energy. His activities in research and development were mainly focused on the implementation of novel and innovative drilling technologies. In the year 2014, he finished his PhD at ETH Zurich in the field of process engineering. Martin Schuler received his Master from the University of Stuttgart focusing on bioprocess engineering.
Lucia Bautista joined the Liver4Life team in September 2016 to support the biomedical research activities of the project. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of Molecular Health Sciences at ETH Zurich, she gained extensive research experience in the field of liver metabolism and physiology. She holds a PhD in biology from the University of Seville (Spain), focused in gene regulation by hypoxia. Lucia will contribute to the Liver4Life project with her strong expertise in molecular and cell biology, with emphasis on liver metabolism, animal experimentation and biochemistry.
Dustin Becker joined the Liver4Life team in January 2016. He will support the research and development of the perfusion system. In 2012, he received his BSc in Mechanical Engineering with distinction at University of Applied Science Lucerne and in 2015, his MSc in Process Engineering with distinction at ETH Zurich. Currently, he is pursuing a doctorate degree at ETH Zurich.
Dilmurodjon Eshmuminov is a surgeon in training at the University Hospital Zurich. He was awarded a Swiss government scholarship to carry out research on liver surgery at the University of Zurich from 2009 to 2011. Subsequently he continued his clinical training as a surgical trainee at the department of Visceral Surgery and Transplantation of the University Hospital Zurich. His clinical and research activities are focused mainly on liver surgery and transplantation. His medical knowledge will add great value to the team.
Matteo Müller joined the Liver4Life team in January 2019. After completing his medical degree in Zurich, he started a surgical residency in the Department of General and Vascular Surgery at the Cantonal Hospital Baden. To continue his surgical career, he joined the Department of Surgery and Transplantation at the University Hospital Zurich in July 2017 under the supervision of Prof. Clavien. Matteo’s clinical interest is mainly liver surgery and transplantation. He will support the Liver4Life team in their surgical activities as well as study liver regeneration during ex-vivo liver perfusion.