A new report from a team of researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham indicates that one of the main complications of liver transplantation can be treated very simply by allowing the transplant recipients to inhale nitric oxide (NO) during the operation in which they received their new liver.
Inhalation of NO decreased the length of time the patients had to stay in hospital and increased the rate at which the function of the transplanted liver was restored, leading the authors to suggest that inhalation of NO is a valuable preemptive approach to enhancing liver function after transplantation.
The authors chose to investigate the potential benefits of NO inhalation to liver transplant recipients because ischemia/reperfusion damage, which is one of the main causes of liver dysfunction and failure after transplantation, is associated with decreased NO production by the liver. The study was prospective, blinded, and placebo-controlled and clearly showed that inhaling NO was beneficial to the transplant recipients. Further analysis indicated that the beneficial effects of inhaled NO were probably mediated through increased levels of nitrite in the circulation. Although these results are extremely promising, the authors caution that further studies using a larger number of patients are needed before a final conclusion about the benefits of inhaling NO can be reached.