News 11 December 2020

Ralph's story: Giving a major gift in gratitude

A liver transplant saved Ralph Smith’s life in 2017. Now he is funding revolutionary research which has the potential to save countless lives worldwide.

First diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Ralph had been a patient at King’s for more than 10 years when doctors made him aware that his condition could lead to the development of liver cancer. When this prognosis was confirmed in 2016, a transplant became the only long-term solution.

“I’d been told to expect a wait of up to two to three years but fortunately I was transplanted in March 2017,” says Ralph.

“Everything went well, and I was home after only ten days. My eldest brother died in his fifties almost thirty years ago. Like several of our family members, he was diabetic, which had taken its toll on both his liver and his kidneys - a liver transplant was not an option at the time. The potential for me to become the second victim in our family makes my successful transplant all the more amazing.

Ralph has pledged funding to support PhD student Marwa Elgosbi’s involvement in a three-year project which could help to make transplanted livers last longer and make many more livers suitable for transplant.

Under the supervision of Ralph’s transplant surgeon Dr Miriam Cortes-Cerisuelo, Marwa will test the impact of introducing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to liver tissue during machine perfusion – a method of preserving and reviving the liver by passing oxygenated fluid and nutrients through the liver before transplantation.

This research is vital: there is a worldwide shortage of organs available for transplant, and often, those that are available are damaged when the blood supply returns to the tissue. Machine perfusion can reduce the severity of this type of injury, and the introduction of mesenchymal stem cells could help to reduce inflammation in injured livers and stop the recipient’s immune system from attacking the transplanted organ, thus reducing the risk of liver failure and liver rejection.

Now retired, Ralph decided to use some of the proceeds from the sale of his successful electronic engineering business to fund the research project.

“King’s undoubtedly saved my life and I hope the research I am sponsoring will help to save many lives in the future. It’s my way of saying thank you to King’s and the transplant team for their amazing work."