An Indian-origin professor in the U.K. will head the world’s first trial using liver stem cells that could avoid transplant surgery.

Paediatric liver consultant Professor Anil Dhawan, who will head the trial at King’s College Hospital, has described the use of stem cells to treat liver disease as an “exciting breakthrough”, The Daily Mail reported.

Doctors have developed a pioneering treatment for liver disease that could save hundreds of lives a year and avoid the need for transplant surgery, it said.

Eighteen British children suffering from rare and life threatening liver conditions are to receive infusions of specially treated liver cells removed from the organs of dead donors, the paper said.

It said that doctors believe they will make vital stem cells — the building blocks of life — and repair the damaged organ.

“We have many very sick children and babies who need transplants. If we can cure them without a transplant that will be a fantastic development.

“We have tried using ordinary liver cells with limited success, but is the first time a treatment has been developed that gets the liver to regrow using stem cells,” Mr. Dhawan was quoted, as saying by the daily.

He added that if all goes well, the children, who are being treated with the cells, will show an improvement within a couple of months.

“We would expect those children to come off their medicines and therapy. It will mean the liver cells have done their job and corrected the defects that made them ill. “Then we will have to see how long the effect lasts and whether we have to top up these children with further infusions. I am optimistic the treatment will work,” he said.