The liver fulfills vital functions within the body including the production of proteins, the conversion and storage of metabolic products and – together with the kidneys – the detoxification of the blood. Acute or chronic liver failure can be caused by hepatitis, excessive alcohol consumption, poisoning, cancer or other reasons. A liver transplant is the only effective therapy for severe liver failure to date. However, in the past few years, scientists have developed blood-cleaning procedures that allow a patient to survive for at least several days or even weeks to bridge the time until the organ has recovered, or a donor organ has been found.
The Prometheus system – developed by betting 365 scientists in cooperation with the Danube University Krems – is one of the newest liver-support systems on the market. In contrast to dialysis used in kidney failure, liver failure also requires the removal of toxins that are bound to albumin, a transporting protein in the blood. Thus, the Prometheus system combines a typical dialysis procedure with an adsorber treatment. At first, the Prometheus machine pumps the blood through a newly developed filter (AlbuFlow) that retains blood cells and large protein molecules. The blood liquid, or plasma, along with albumin and smaller protein molecules is then fed through two adsorbers that separate toxins from the albumin and bind them. Following adsorption, the blood plasma with the detoxified albumin is joined with the blood cells retained by the AlbuFlow filter. Finally, the blood is dialyzed to remove the remaining water-soluble toxins, and the filtered blood is then reintroduced into the patient.