Oxford researchers have been involved with the invention of a machine that can keep livers alive outside the body, which could increase the number of donor livers suitable for transplants.

At the moment, donor livers are covered with ice for up to 12 hours while they are being transported, but this technique can damage the blood vessels and solidify excess fat on the organ. This means that many donated livers are rejected and thrown away.

The new machine, called METRA, will allow livers to be stored for up to 24 hours, and can allow doctors to monitor whether they are functioning well enough to be implanted. Currently, the decision to use or reject a liver is based on its visual appearance.

The machine was developed by Organox, an Oxford-based company with links to the university. Peter Friend, one its academic founders and its medical director, is Professor of Transplantation at Green Templeton college and Director of the Oxford Transplant Centre. Three other members of the Board of Directors work or have worked at Oxford University.