New Test for Heart, Kidney Transplant
THURSDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A new blood test may
offer a quicker, noninvasive way to detect organ rejection in heart
and kidney transplant patients before the new organs are damaged,
say researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine in
They found that levels of three easily measured proteins rise in
the blood during acute rejection, in which a transplant patient's
immune system attacks the new organ. This is the first study to
pinpoint a rejection signal that's shared by two kinds of
transplanted organs, according to the researchers.
The study appears online Sept. 23 in the journal
PLoS Computational Biology.
Tests are now being conducted to determine if these protein
signals can also be used to identify organ rejection in liver and
lung transplant patients, the researchers added.
"In the past, we couldn't spot rejection episodes until they harmed the organ. Our goal is to develop blood tests that will keep transplanted organs functioning so that patients can avoid a second transplant," study co-senior author Dr. Atul Butte, an associate professor of medical informatics and of pediatrics, said in a Stanford news release.
About 40 percent of heart recipients and 25 percent of kidney
recipients have an episode of acute rejection during the first year
The new blood test could replace the current invasive, expensive
and slow method, which involves monitoring the functioning of the
new organ. If doctors detect a decline in function, they take a
tiny sample from the transplanted organ to check for rejection.
Based on what they find, they may adjust the patient's
immune-suppressing drug regimen.
In addition to providing early warning about organ rejection,
the new blood test could be used to identify transplant patients
whose new organs are being well accepted by the body. Doctors could
lower doses of immune-suppressing drugs in these patients, which
would reduce unwanted drug side effects, the researchers noted.
To develop their blood test, the Stanford team utilized an
existing method to detect proteins in blood -- enzyme-linked
immunosorbent assay (ELISA) -- which is used to diagnose diseases
such as strep throat.
The new organ rejection blood test could be commercially
available in three to five years, Butte predicted.
The American Society of Transplantation has more about
staying healthy after a transplant.
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