Exosome-Based Test May Enable Earlier Detection of Transplant Rejection

Approximately 30,000 organ transplants occur in the United States each year. However, between 20 and 50 percent—depending on the organ type—of the transplanted organs fail within five years, most often because the recipient’s immune system attacks, or “rejects,” the donated organ. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) have discovered a method that appears to provide earlier warning of organ transplant rejection compared to standard methods, and requires only a exosome-based blood test rather than a more invasive and painful needle biopsy. This new method is detailed in a study published online on March 20, 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The open-access article is titled “ Tissue-specific exosome biomarkers for noninvasively monitoring immunologic rejection of transplanted tissue.” If the validity of the new approach for detecting transplant rejection is confirmed in further studies, it could enable doctors to keep transplant recipients healthier and their transplants working longer. A better biomarker would allow doctors to reverse rejection episodes in many of these cases using immunosuppressive drugs. “There is a critical need for a biomarker that will work across the entire field of transplantation and will allow us to detect rejection and intervene much sooner than we are currently able to,” said lead author Prashanth Vallabhajosyula, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery at Perelman. “We think our proposed biomarker platform could fulfill that need.” In principle, when doctors are able to detect rejection episodes earlier and intervene more effectively, transplant recipients also will be able to use lower maintenance doses of immunosuppressive drugs when rejection is not occurring.
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