Background. Whole organ extracorporeal perfusion of a genetically modified humanized (transgenic) pig liver has been proposed as a technology that may sustain patients with severe liver failure while awaiting human liver transplantation. Methods. We report on two cases of successful extracorporeal perfusion of a transgenic pig liver in patients awaiting transplantation for fulminant hepatic failure. The pig livers used were transgenic for human CD55 (decay-accelerating factor) and human CD59. These transgenic modifications are designed to reduce or eliminate the hyperacute rejection inherent in pig-to-primate xenotransplants. We also report on the results of serial surveillance testing for presence of the porcine endogenous retrovirus (PoERV) in these two patients. Results. Extracorporeal perfusion in two patients was performed for 6.5 and 10 hr, respectively, followed by the successful transplantation of a human liver and resultant healthy patients (18 and 5 months later as of this writing). The porcine livers showed evidence of synthetic and secretory function (decreasing protime and bilirubin, bile production). Serial polymerase chain reaction analysis of these patients' peripheral blood mononuclear cells has failed to show presence of PoERV DNA sequences. Conclusions. The CD55/CD59 transgenic porcine liver appears capable of safely 'bridging' a patient to liver transplantation. Human PoERV infection from these livers has yet to be demonstrated.
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