Surgeon’s pioneering work to feature in BBC Two documentary

An alumnus who is carrying out pioneering work to increase the number of viable organs for use in transplant surgery is being featured in a BBC Two documentary series.

Richard Laing (OKS 2000) and his colleagues are profiled in Surgeons: At the Edge of Life: The Pioneers, airing on Monday, January 22, at 9pm.

Within his role as a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow, Richard is part of clinical trial between University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham, which is investigating the feasibility of using ‘discarded’ livers to tackle the shortage of liver donors. The trial hopes to increase the number of ‘transplantable’ livers.

Thanks to the development of a technique called machine perfusion, the team are testing the function of these livers prior to using them for transplantation. This trial follows on from a pilot study which resulted in the successful transplantation of five out of six perfused livers that were initially rejected for use.

The programme, part of a series of three, follows the trial every step of the way, as Richard receives a donor liver that would usually be rejected. He tries to prove it is viable for transplant by testing it on a perfusion device. This machine supports the liver by mimicking the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients an organ receives inside a live, healthy human body.

Deaths from liver disease have soared by 40% in a decade and continue to increase. Demand for liver transplants far exceeds availability of donors, so patients on the transplant waiting list are facing a longer wait and approximately 20% of patients die on the waiting list before a suitable organ can be found.