A liver transplant involves surgery to remove a diseased liver and replace it with a healthy one. In the majority of cases, a healthy liver can be obtained from an organ donor.
A transplant is required in cases of liver failure which can occur as a result of viral hepatitis, a drug-induced injury, or infection.
There are always waiting lists for liver transplant cases. In the U.S., waiting lists are based on how sick the patient is and whether they are in danger of acute liver failure. However, in a select few cases, there might be no real option to obtain a healthy liver.
This happened to a young woman in Turkey in 2008. The 19-year-old woman was in urgent need of a transplant because she had a life-threatening condition called hepatic encephalopathy. When her liver started to shut down, doctors rushed to save her life.
The only liver available was from a deceased 93-year-old woman. The liver was not only old - it also contained a cyst that could cause a parasitic infection. In addition, the liver had been rejected by all the other transplant centers.
The doctors had no choice but to accept the 93-year-old liver. The transplantation on the 19-year-old was a success and her body seemed to accept the 93-year-old liver. After six years, the woman even gave birth to a healthy baby girl. By then, her liver was a 100 years old.
For researchers, this proved that certain organs of the body are able to survive even past the lifetime of their owners.