Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
'Vampire' tests on liver disease
Patients are being fed a synthetic blood compound
Patients are being fed fake blood in a project to understand more about liver disease.
A research team in Edinburgh is trying to find out why the body cannot cope with the bleeding from varicose veins that form in the body of liver disease victims.
They hope the research will uncover ways of keeping patients alive long enough for them to receive a liver transplant.
Liver disease causes internal bleeding, but also prevents the organ from processing blood causing a build up of ammonia in the body which can lead to serious brain damage.
Doctors have been monitoring how the livers and brains react of patients in the trial.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Hayes, from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: "One of the commonest problems is that people bleed from varicose veins in their intestine.
"Blood has a complicated effect on the body and blood in the intestine can do quite a bit of mischief.
"One of the things we have been doing is a simulated bleed.
"We are also looking at imaging of blood flow in the brain. It is the sort of stress test on the liver to see what happens."
About a dozen cirrhosis sufferers have been drinking synthetic haemoglobin, in doses which are too small to be harmful.
Cirrhosis is the final stage of liver disease. It can be caused by alcoholism and disesease such as hepatitis.